Swindon & Wiltshire Business News

Small businesses to benefit from rate relief – but it won't stop big names leaving towns

Regent Street Swindon


Small shops, pubs and music venues will benefit from a proposed reduction in business rates. On Saturday, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid announced he would be slashing costs through Business Rate Relief and Pubs Relief.

The move is part of a package of measures designed to support local high streets. Small shops and cafes will see their bills halved as the retail discount, currently a third off, is extended to 50 percent.

Meanwhile, music venues and cinemas will become eligible for the retail discount, and a £1,500 discount for local newspapers office space will be extended for a further five years.

However, the British Retail Consortium has criticised the proposals for not increasing the £51,000-a-year rateable value threshold. The BRC represents national retail businesses, and it is the disappearance of those brands from high streets that is worrying business leaders in larger towns like Swindon.

In 2019, Swindon town centre lost big names including Dorothy Perkins, Wallis, Evans, Argos, and Starbucks. Topshop and Topman will follow suit in March this year.

Commenting on the government's announcement, Andrew Kilpatrick of commercial property consultant Kilpatrick & Co, said: “Whilst this additional rates relief is to be welcomed, as is anything that helps the high street, unfortunately this does nothing to deal with the problem of large shops suffering from the burden of transitional surcharges, leaving them still paying excessive rates.

"Those rates are based on 2008 rental values, which do not reflect the significant fall in values since then, which is why so many large shops are lying vacant and so many retailers are having to close such shops.

“As 2020/21 is the last year of the 2017 Rating List, any business that has not yet taken the plunge to embark on the new check/challenge/appeal system of business rates appeals should be taking action now, as rumours of a cut-off date for 20217 Rating List appeals have been circulating.

"Unfortunately, it is no longer easy to make a business rates appeal. It takes some considerable time and preparation and so business are urged to consider their situation and act before the opportunity goes and they lose four years' business rates savings.”