HELP for small businesses announced in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement has been welcomed by shopping bosses in Rugby.
Town centre chief Aftab Gaffar and borough council economy spokeswoman Heather Timms applauded George Osbourne’s decision to extend small business rate relief, which exempts businesses with a rateable value of £6,000 and offers proportional relief for those valued up to £12,000.
He also increased a discount for high street businesses with a rateable value up to £50,000, including shops, pubs and cafes, from £1,000 to £1,500. The annual rise in rates was again capped at 2 per cent.
Rugby First managing director Aftab Gaffar said the measures would help businesses, particularly as the changes would be applied directly to rate bills rather than businesses having to apply for them.
However, he added that he would have liked to have seen more done to help businesses.
“Many established businesses are paying more per month on business rates than rent.
“Landlords have woken up to the fact that businesses are finding it more and more difficult to compete with online and out of town retailers, and government must do the same before town centre businesses start to close their doors for good.
“The Chancellor promised a landmark review into business rates in 2016 to ensure high streets can compete with their online rivals, who often do not pay business rates.
“I hope this review reforms the current out-of-date assessments into a system that is fair to all businesses.”
Coun Heather Timms, Rugby Borough Council’s economy spokeswoman, said the reforms would tackle many of the major issues which the small business community faces.
She said: “The doubling of business rate relief for a further year eases a burden on small businesses, with additional support on offer for high street shops, pubs and cafes, which we need to develop in our town centre.
“All these measures have been made possible by the increasing confidence in our economy. In Rugby, we now have higher growth, lower unemployment, falling inflation and a platform from which to build towards local prosperity.”
LOCAL trade unionists have attacked the Autumn Statement for “making the poor and ordinary working people pay for an economic crisis they did not cause”.
Pete McLaren, spokesman and parliamentary candidate for Rugby Tradue Union and Socialist Coalition, said the government’s austerity measures were making most people poorer while prices for everyday essentials were rising.
He said: “The Government has not dealt with the country’s debts. George Osborne forecast government borrowing to be £91.3bn this year, whereas in March the forecast was for £87bn. Despite all the suffering, public debt has actually risen.”
He described benefits cuts as particularly severe, and said they would hit over three million families, many of whom were already struggling to live on their wages or benefits.
“There will be a two year freeze in tax credits, and the same freeze on Universal Credit. In contrast, last year the same government slashed the income tax for those earning over £150,00 per year,” he said.
“We have been saying for many years that public spending cuts are not necessary: they are a political decision. For how much longer are the majority going to be forced to pay for the mistakes of the few?”
MP Mark Pawsey defended his party’s long-term economic plan, adding that the UK was the fastest growing major economy in the world with higher growth, lower unemployment, falling inflation and a falling deficit.
“Despite the difficult decisions that had to be made to turn our country around, and to get our finances in order so that our NHS can be protected, this government has always been on the side of hard-working people and our most vulnerable citizens.
“Tax allowance rises have saved the average tax-payer in Rugby over £800 per year, childcare costs have been cut, energy bills have been reduced, fuel costs have been slashed, the National Minimum Wage has risen, every primary school child has a free school meal, over three million people have been taken out of tax altogether and universal benefits for pensioners, including winter fuel payments, have been protected.
“There is more to do in order to secure our economic recovery and a better future for our children and our country but we are on the right course.”