Wales politics

£10m rate relief plan details revealed by Mark Drakeford

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Media captionMark Drakeford says he hopes the scheme will be a significant help for businesses facing higher business rates

Nearly 15,000 shops, restaurants and pubs will benefit from a £10m rate relief scheme for high street firms, the Welsh Government has announced.

It said the scheme, from April, would help businesses whose rates are rising due to a revaluation of their premises.

Ministers said firms whose rates were falling, but struggling with economic conditions and online and out-of-town competition, would also be helped.

The Tories welcomed the cash, but raised questions over who was eligible.

The scheme was part of Labour ministers' budget deal with Plaid Cymru.

Finance Secretary Mark Drakeford revealed the plans in December, saying some retailers were facing substantial rate increases and that there were towns and communities that were being "disproportionately affected".

On Wednesday, property experts warned the rate rises could close shops on rural high streets across Wales.

Analysts have also reported that revaluation will see online giant Amazon paying less business rates on its warehouses, including the one near Swansea.

The relief scheme means eligible retailers with a rateable value of £50,000 or less will receive up to £1,500 off their business rates, under a two-tier system:

  • High street retailers with a £6,001 to £12,000 rateable value, already receiving small business rates relief or transitional rates relief, will have their rates bill reduced by £500 or to zero if their bill is less than £500
  • Eligible high street retailers with a £12,001 to £50,000 rateable value facing a rates increase in April will have their rates bill reduced by £1,500

Mr Drakeford said: "This new scheme is in addition to the £10m transitional relief scheme, which will also be available from April 1 and the £100m tax cut for small businesses in Wales provided by small business rates relief.

"It will provide vital support to ratepayers on high streets across Wales and offer these businesses extra support."

Ben Cottam from the Federation of Small Businesses said the scheme would "go some way to providing breathing space for many businesses whom we know have been concerned about the impact of new rates bills on their business".

Image caption Business rates are the tax firms pay on their premises

Plaid Cymru economy spokesman Adam Price said his party was pleased to "deliver this additional £10m to support businesses affected by the recent business rates revaluation as part of the recent budget deal between Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Government".

"However the Labour Welsh Government must now honour its National Assembly election pledge and deliver a fairer business rates relief scheme in Wales, which must include more regular revaluations," he said.

Conservative finance spokesman Nick Ramsay AM said: "Whilst we welcome the additional funding there are still questions over eligibility, and in particular what constitutes a 'High Street', and it is far from clear that this money is targeted only at businesses who have been adversely affected by the recent revaluations."

Mr Ramsay said the scheme needed to be ready within weeks, putting local councils under "significant pressure", and accused Labour ministers of providing a "painfully slow response to the revaluations".

Retailers can contact their local council to see if they qualify for the high street rates relief scheme.

Ministers said work on developing a new permanent small business rates relief scheme for 2018 was underway.

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