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Cabinet approves further rate relief for local businesses

Wirral businesses which have been adversely affected by this year’s Business Rates Revaluation may qualify for financial assistance to help provide relief against the impact of the changes.

Wirral Council’s Cabinet today approved a recommendation to amend its existing policy to provide Discretionary Rate Relief to local businesses to reflect the availability of additional funding provided by central government and pass this financial support on to those that need it most.

The Government is providing additional support in three distinct areas – supporting small business, support for public houses and an extension to the discretionary fund. Now that Wirral Council has full details of these schemes - and the software to process them - it is seeking to agree an amended National Non-Domestic Rates Discretionary Relief Policy in order to allow local businesses who qualify to access this new support.

Cllr Janette Williamson, Cabinet member for Finance and Income Generation, said the council is determined to see these new forms of rate relief passed on those businesses that need it most.

“A priority in the Wirral Plan is for Wirral to be a place where employers want to invest and businesses are able to thrive,” Cllr Williamson said.

“Encouraging small businesses to develop and grow is at the heart of this and as business rates represent a significant cost to them, we are keen to ensure small businesses in particular can access rate relief.

“The council already operates a discretionary rate relief policy, which was approved for 2017/18. With the detail behind the government’s proposals for three other schemes now announced, the council policy is being amended in order to provide support for more than 600 businesses and 100 public houses in Wirral this year. Better still, these discounts will be awarded without businesses needing to complete an application form.

“This is a real demonstration that Wirral is a welcoming and supportive place to do business, with a local authority that will give them the best possible chance to succeed.”

As part of the extended Discretionary Fund, the government is investing £300 million over the next four years to support businesses which face a significant increase in their business rates as a result of the 2017 revaluation. Wirral’s allocation is £912,000 over four years - £532,000 in the first year, reducing over subsequent years when the fund expires.

In Wirral, the proposal is to provide local small to medium-sized businesses with relief if their business rates were projected to rise by more than 5% and their new rateable value is less than £200,000 as a result of the revaluation. It is forecast that more than 600 local businesses will benefit.

Under the ‘support for small business’ relief scheme, around 30 Wirral small businesses will qualify to have their business rates increase capped at £600 per year, while as part of the ‘support for public houses’ initiative, which is for one year only, around 100 Wirral pubs and similar venues will receive business rate relief of up to £1,000 provided they have an rateable value of less than £100,000.

The help has been praised within the local business community. Peter Russell, the Chairman of recruitment firm Russell Taylor Group, which is based in Bromborough, mentors young local entrepreneurs and he said support such as this is a lifeline to fledgling businesses.

Peter said: “Getting help and support with overheads such as this can make or break a small business that has recently started up. It is really good news that companies which are facing a big increase in their business rates will qualify for this financial relief – it will cushion the blow while they continue to grow.”

And Steve Wood, Director of Birkenhead-based Parity Medical, added: “Our company is growing, but the award of partial rates relief after the national revaluation is still very welcome as it allows us to re-invest in infrastructure and continue to increase our workforce, further supporting the local economy.”

Cllr Williamson emphasised that rates relief will be particularly beneficial to a sector of the local economy which is going through an especially difficult period.

She said: “This support will provide a much-needed boost for businesses and to public houses in Wirral in particular. Pubs all over the country have been struggling of late with an average of 27 closing per week. Hopefully this rate relief will provide a bit of a buffer in difficult times.”