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Bath to cut business rates in boost for struggling retailers

Up to 800 retailers across Bath and North East Somerset are being invited to apply for a business rate discount, which could see their bill cut by a third.

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in his Autumn Budget that over the next two financial years retail premises with a rateable value of £51,000 or less could be awarded a discount from April this year. It’s expected other councils will follow as they look to revive ailing high streets which saw footfall decline for a 13th straight month in December.

Bath & North East Somerset Council has now sent application forms to businesses which it thinks qualify for the discount. To qualify, the business must be occupied and be wholly or mainly used to sell goods, services or food and drink to members of the public. Examples include shops, opticians, hairdressers, post offices, garden centres, markets, petrol stations, restaurants and bars.

Cllr Paul Myers, cabinet member for Economic and Community Regeneration, said: ‘Business rates remain one of the biggest fixed costs for many retailers and this discount is designed to help them at a time when trading conditions are difficult. We want to see our High Streets, town centres and villages thrive and I’d urge eligible retailers to apply.’

The awards are discretionary and will be assessed by the council on a case by case basis.  They add that premises which are not ‘reasonably accessible’ to members of the public, or those which are not mainly used for the qualifying purpose will not be eligible for the discount.

In December towns have been invited to bid for the first phase of the £675m Future High Streets fund, which according to the Government will help local leaders implement ‘bold new visions to transform their town centres’.

The fund was created following a report by the chairman of shoe repair chain Timpson, Sir John Timpson, which warned a lack of ‘inspirational and forward-looking’ local leadership, planning issues and a shortage of specialist expertise in space design are contributing to failing town centres.

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