Doncaster shopkeepers have issued an urgent plea to ‘Save Our High Street’ as astronomical business rates threaten to push them to the wall.
At a time of unprecedented pressures from the internet and the effects of the recession, as well as a host of costs including rent, small businesses are also having to find thousands of pounds in rates.
Traders, business bodies and pressure groups say it is the biggest barrier to growth, to taking on staff and to independent start-ups which could occupy empty shops across the borough.
That is why The Doncaster Free Press and parent company Johnston Press is today launching a campaign calling for an urgent reform of the rating system.
We demand that business rates are frozen immediately while an urgent review of the system is conducted. Some shopkeepers have benefited from a rates relief scheme – but some argue it should go much further.
And a number of independent traders in the town centre have already backed our campaign.
Kath Thorpe, owner of Marketplace Alehouse and Deli, in Doncaster Market Place said: “There are a lot of outgoings when you run a business and if rates are high then you don’t really stand a chance. Small businesses need more support if the country is to get the economy moving again.”
The 32-year-old of Barnburgh, added: “I know a lot who find it a problem. The Government wants people to start up a business, but then price them out of it with high rates.”
Single mum Danielle Jenkins, 29, owner of the Sweet Escape, on the corner of Silver Street and East Laith Gate added: “I think bigger chain shops and supermarkets are alright with high rates, but not smaller businesses.
“The rates are that high that I struggle to take home a wage by the end of the week. I support the campaign, rates need to be reduced if businesses are to survive.”
Mum-of-one Anne McDonald-Swift, 37, who runs The Enchanted Bakery from her Carcroft home, said: “I looked into taking on a premises but the costs were too high.
“I think many people have no option but to run their business from home.”
Kerry Needham, 31, of Bawtry, owner of wedding supplies firm Forget-Me-Not-Events, in Scot Lane added: “You see a lot of empty shops in the town centre.
“I wouldn’t mind so much if we got a lot back for our money.
“Surely it is better to reduce the costs and have all the shop fronts full.”
Our campaign has received the backing of Labour leader and Doncaster North MP Ed Miliband who believes small firms need help with soaring costs.
Speaking in support Mr Miliband said: “I think it is right to ease the burden of business rates.
“Businesses, particularly small firms, need help with escalating business rates and soaring energy costs, and I have repeatedly called on the government to do more to support them.
“Rather than simply capping the increase in business rates, as David Cameron has done, I would like to see a cut in business rates in 2015 followed by a freeze in 2016 – paid for by not going ahead with the Government’s additional Corporation Tax cut for the largest firms – benefitting millions of small businesses.
“If we are to build prosperity for the long term, we must give help to the many businesses which will create most of the jobs and the wealth of the future – not just a few at the top.”
The British Property Federation says a business rates cut is top of its wishlist for the Autumn Statement – when the Chancellor announces new policies.
It also wants to see more the reinstatement of a six-month empty rates relief for all properties and frequent revaluations to reflect actual rental values.