Wales

Debenhams stores in Swansea and Newport saved

Debenhams store Image copyright AFP
Image caption Debenhams had said it would be "unable" to reopen some Welsh stores

Department store Debenhams has agreed deals with two Welsh councils to keep stores open.

Swansea and Newport councils say they will allow the chain to defer paying business rates until the end of the financial year.

The company had threatened not to reopen some of its Welsh stores because of a row over rate relief in Wales.

Chairman Mark Gifford said the two branches would now reopen after lockdown.

"I will make sure that Swansea will be one of the Debenhams stores included in the first wave of our reopening programme, and with the support of the council and our landlord, our Swansea store has a strong future," he said.

He also thanked Newport council and said he looked forward to welcoming customers back to the city's branch.

Unlike in England, commercial properties in Wales with a rateable value over £500,000 are not eligible for business rate relief.

The Welsh Government said this affected fewer than 200 sites and it would use the money saved to support smaller companies.

In April, Mr Gifford wrote to the Welsh Finance Minister Rebecca Evans, saying he would be "unable to reopen" stores unless the policy was changed.

"It is deeply regrettable that, by electing to take a different approach to that taken elsewhere in the UK, you have made it economically unviable for us to continue trading the majority of our Welsh business," he wrote.

The Welsh Government said at the time the move would mean more than £100m was available to support 2,000 businesses with grants of £50,000.

"We decided to limit the non-domestic rates relief for the hospitality, retail and leisure sector announced to exclude the small proportion of properties with a rateable value of over £500,000.

Debenhams has already said its Merthyr Tydfil branch will not reopen after the company failed to come to an agreement with the landlord.

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