Business rates relief plan for Harrogate, is it enough?

Michaela Stothard, owner of Posh Paws pictured left
Michaela Stothard, owner of Posh Paws pictured left

Businesses hardest hit by changes in business rates could soon benefit from the first injection of cash relief.

The early stages of the Discretionary Rates Relief Scheme received approval from the Deputy Leader for Harrogate Borough Council (HBC) last Wednesday.

Funding will go towards supporting businesses across the district facing a rise of 10 per cent or more in their business rates following the reevaluation in April, and is from a national pot of £300m available to all local authorities in England.

Packages of funds will be spread across four years, the first totalling £394,766 is made up of grant funding totalling £197,383 and the 50 per cent Business Rates Retention Scheme.

Deputy Leader, Coun Graham Swift said: “This is good news for businesses in the district that have seen a big increase, they will see a significant benefit through this £394,766 relief scheme.

“It is going to save them money and provide them relief with the rates which they regard to be very high.

He added: “It would be wonderful if we could retain the £60m in business rates we collect but this is unlikely to happen in the future.

“323 business will however benefit from this, it is a small number out of the more than 13,000 businesses in the district but these are the ones that were most affected.”

Approval will still have to be gained from both Cabinet and Council before the plans are implemented.

While all local authorities are to receive a share, each must establish a plan on how the funds will be distributed.

Council documents show that as part of this, HBC will be required to provide funds to eligible businesses if funding through the scheme is not sufficient.

Funding for this year comes from the largest chunk of the £300m that will be made available, next year it will drop to £85m, £35m in 2019 and £5m in 2020.

For some businesses the changes from earlier this year remain a concern despite the news of the funding.

The Stothard family, who operate Posh Paws and Stothards Pet Store in Harrogate, have previously paid more than £25,000 per year on their two stores but now face a bill of almost £30,000.

Michaela Stothard said: “It’s nice to hear that Harrogate Borough Council have noticed that independents affected by the proposed rate increase like ourselves need support.

“The council have said that they will help independents with the steepest increases, but any increase in costs to an independent affects our survival no matter how big or small the amount.

She added:“The economic environment nowadays is really tough for all of us, with rising costs and tough competition from chains and online stores.

“There are not many independents left in Harrogate with larger shop floor space like ourselves who pay full business rates so I’ll be interested to see who it actually benefits.

“The council look to be supporting those with a 10 per cent cost increase which means we only qualify with Posh Paws, which has a proposed rate increase of 14.75 per cent.

“However our other store, Stothards Pet Store, is set to suffer a 9.75 per cent increase.

“Overall the efforts to attempt to help independents is positive, but it doesn’t help that the council are allowing chains to flood into Harrogate and the fact that we still have to pay high rent and rates regardless.”