Business rates row rumbles on..

By Philip Irwin in Business

Cowbridge businesses hit by huge projected rises in the business rates are hoping to find out later this week if a Welsh Government (WG) ‘transitional relief’ scheme will make a difference.

As has been discussed in The GEM previously, the latest revaluation of business rates, which takes place roughly every five years, has hit some local business really hard.

Cowbridge (together with towns such as Monmouth) has become the focus of a national protest, culminating with a petition that was handed into The Senedd in January.

In response, the WG has created a £10 million transitional relief scheme, operating over three years and cutting the immediate rates bill. However, what it will mean in terms of hard cash per business is still unclear.

In the Senedd this Tuesday, (February 14), the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives and South Wales Central AM Andrew RT Davies urged First Minister Carwyn Jones to bring forward details of the scheme as soon as possible.

In response, Mr Jones confirmed it would be unveiled by the end of this week at the latest.

Another action being taken by local traders is to appeal their rates revaluation. Sally Stephenson of The Pencil Case, who is co-ordinating the protest campaign, told The GEM:?“It is definitely worth doing, I have had my increase reduced by almost half. I know others have had reductions too.”

To this end, traders met at The Bear Hotel earlier this week, at a meeting arranged by Vale MP Alun Cairns’ office, where a representative of Cooke and Arkwright explained the appeals process.

Sally Stephenson said that the possibility had also been raised of a joint rates revaluation appeal from a group of traders.

Andrew RT?Davies queried the timing of the WG rates relief information, saying:?“It is disappointing the announcement will be made on the eve of recess, since it will not give us the opportunity to question ministers on the proposals.

“It is vital we get the scheme right and proper scrutiny is the best way to achieve that.”

Vale MP?Alun Cairns said the relief scheme fell short of “committing to an enhanced, permanent rate relief scheme”.

Mr Cairns favours the system in England, where businesses with a rateable value below £12,000 will pay nothing in business rates from April onwards, with tapered relief for those businesses with a value up to £18,000.

The Welsh Government, however, says that the two countries are not comparable, and has argued that, for instance, there is a much higher proportion of small businesses with a rateable value of less than £12,000 in Wales than in England.

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