Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Business rates too high, say councillors

A HENLEY shopkeeper and town councillor has called for a campaign to reduce business rates.

A HENLEY shopkeeper and town councillor has called for a campaign to reduce business rates.

Joan Bland, who owns Asquiths teddy bear shop in New Street, said the issue was “most urgent”.

Speaking at a town council meeting, the Conservative councillor said: “I believe we should write as a council and involve our MP to lobby the Government about business rates.

“It is very important because business rates affect growth. There are so many pressures on businesses with employment low and VAT and council tax — everywhere you look traders are being taxed.

“To pay 48.5 per cent of your rent to the Government in business rates is absolutely obscene.”

Her comments came after the number of empty shop premises in Henley town centre reached 17, their highest total for four years.

Councillor Jeni Wood said: “We are losing traders fast in this town and it worries me sick.

“I have spoken to one or two traders and they say business rates are too high and they are based on rental prices. It is a while since they were looked at and we must help our traders where we can.”

Cllr Wood suggested that traders should challenge their business rates.

But Councillor Lorraine Hillier, who owns the Hot Gossip coffee house in Friday Street, warned that this could result in them going up as well as down as she had found when challenging the business rates on her premises. Councillor Sam Evans suggested asking town centre manager Pete McConnell to seek advice from traders which were doing well.

“There are examples of shops in Henley that have been there forever and a day,” she said.

“Peruvian Connection was one — the only reason they are moving is because they have been so successful that they are moving their flagship store from Henley to London.

“They are a classic example of a retailer who have combined a high street presence with an online presence and done extremely well.”

Henley MP John Howell, who is set to meet town traders to discuss business rates later this month, said: “Business rates clearly do have an effect on businesses.

“They are a major component of a business’ expenditure and we need to look at what businesses are getting for that money and whether they are too high.

“All these questions need answering and, where necessary, there should be lobbying.”

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