Finance

Welsh Government urged to ‘support the survival of shops’ in Wales with rates discount

A retail group and shopworkers union have jointly written to the Welsh Finance Minister asking her to introduce a business rates discount for all retail premises for the coming financial year.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced a 50% cut to business rates for hospitality, retail and leisure sectors in England.

Now calls are being made for Welsh Government to at least match that discount at the Welsh Budget on December 22 to support a sector that employs 130,000 people and traditionally accounts for over a quarter of business rates.

In this financial year Welsh Government went beyond the support provided in England with zero rates for hospitality, retail and leisure sectors.

The joint letter – from Sara Jones, Head, Welsh Retail Consortium, and Nick Ireland, Regional Secretary – Wales, Usdaw – was submitted to Rebecca Evans, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Finance.

They said: “We fully recognise the support your government has provided to the industry during the pandemic, including the business rates waiver. The support you have provided to Welsh firms has been swift and substantial and provided a lifeline for many whom would have otherwise been unable to survive the economic downturn.

Sara Jones head of the Welsh Retail Consortium

“Yet for all the progress in pushing back against Covid, its clear the retail industry is still struggling in its shadow. We are almost two-thirds of the way through the current financial year and store sales and shopper footfall in Wales have yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, whilst shop vacancies remain stubbornly high with almost one in five premises vacant. Many retailers have incurred significant debt through the crisis including Covid loans and tax deferrals.

“As the guardrails of taxpayer support are gradually withdrawn, retailers are ready to contribute their fair share. However, further assistance will be required in the transition. A return to full 100% business rates from April, which were at an onerous 21-year high prior to the pandemic, will be insurmountable for many shops.

“Our organisations have a range of ideas on how Wales’ rates system could better support the economic recovery in the short and longer term.

“However, we collectively believe one measure that requires to be taken in your Budget is a further discount to business rates in 2022-23 – one that is applicable to all retail premises and reduces the burden for all stores – to reflect the market reality and provide a bridge to the next revaluation.

“Alongside a commitment to more frequent revaluations, in line with the rest of GB this would support the survival of shops, the jobs they provide directly and in the supply chain, and the vitality of our high streets and retail destinations.”

Welsh Government urged to 'support the survival of shops' in Wales with rates discount

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