Retail Business Rates Relief: Last Chance to Respond
Today (Thursday 31st of January) is the last day to respond to Eastbourne Borough Council’s Retail Business Rates Relief Consultation.
This is following the announcement from the Government that retail businesses with a rateable value under £51,000 will be eligible to receive a third discount from their business rates.
Our response to the policy is below.
Functional Lead for Growth and Prosperity
Eastbourne Borough Council
1 Grove Road
Date 29th January 2019
RE: Business Rates Retail Discount Policy
We write on behalf of the Eastbourne unLtd Chamber of Commerce and EDEAL Enterprise Agency with regards to the recent draft policy concerning the business rates retail discount offered.
We appreciate that the Government has recognised that changing consumer behaviour presents a significant challenge for retailers within town centres. Whilst Eastbourne has almost half the national average of vacant units (at 5.66%) most analysts agree that retail is under pressure. Deloitte, in their “Retail Trends 2019” has found 7,500 net store closures in 2018, an increase of 36% from 2017 and our traditional high street retailers are under threat from online.
It is critical to retain the nil value for businesses with a rateable value under £12,000.
Any additional steps taken to give relief is welcomed but a discount of a third is unlikely to be sufficient on its own for the town centre retail sector to compete with online retail and may have an unintended consequence of landlords increasing rent as a result of the relief. The long-term objective should be to make the town centre experience attractive and sustainable enough to draw communities into it.
We are therefore concerned with an arbitrary exclusion list. A town centre is vibrant with a mixed business community. You will be aware that Eastbourne, like many towns, has a very active and established professional sector based in the town centre. Similarly, no mention is made within the policy of any relief for gyms, leisure facilities or attractions within the town and other retailers – such as vape shops – are excluded. Our view is that residents and visitors come to town for a variety of reasons and it is important to have this diversity and mix of offering.
We would however, encourage Eastbourne Borough Council to use their discretionary powers to prohibit from relief those premises which choose to sell high-strength cheap alcohol. This alcohol is used predominantly by the street community and is often one of the causes of anti-social behaviour as well as having a detrimental impact on the health of the consumer. Prohibiting from relief these businesses makes it clear that whilst a business can choose to sell this product if they wish, there may be a financial penalty for doing so. We would extend this to those businesses also choosing to sell legal highs.
In closing, whilst we support the aims of the retail discount policy, we urge caution and ask that careful consideration be given to reduce the exclusion list of eligible businesses to promote a diverse business offering.
Ashley Pugh Luke Johnson
Eastbourne unLtd Director Edeal
Portfolio Holder for Retail Town Centre Manager