Small businesses form the economic and social backbone of towns across Wales, and the Vale of Glamorgan is no exception. They provide employment, enhance community networks and give our High Streets, and thus our towns, their unique character.
We are rapidly approaching the annual day when we celebrate small business and encourage everyone to use them. This year’s Small Business Saturday will take place on December 3rd and I encourage everyone in the Vale to take the opportunity to take a Christmas Shopping trip to their local High Street and support local traders.
We cannot afford to be complacent about preserving our High Streets however, and as well as your support as shoppers they need support from government. As you may be aware, many small businesses in the Vale are likely to see their costs go up as a result of the periodic revaluation of business rates.
Cowbridge is being particularly badly hit by this re-valuation, with the new values expected to be 25% higher for the town, having a knock on impact on business rates. On the fashionable Eastgate end of the town’s high street, rateable values are set increase by as much as 45%.
You may have seen the campaign against high rates organised by Cowbridge traders in the news over recent weeks. The traders’ campaign is led by the impressive and tireless Sally Stephenson of the Pencil Case stationary store, she has succeeded in bringing this issue to the attention of the public and of politicians.
Business rates policy is devolved to the Welsh Government, and I have long supported Welsh Conservative calls for higher rate relief thresholds, effectively a tax cut, for small businesses. The impending rate increase as a result of re-valuation and the imminent arrival of a generous rate-relief package for small business in England means that action must be taken urgently.
From April onwards in England small businesses with a rateable value under £12,000 will get 100% relief, effectively exempting them from rates, and those with a rateable value between £12,000 and £15,000 will receive tapered relief.
If this were to apply in Wales, many businesses in Cowbridge currently struggling with rates would pay none at all and many others would qualify for relief for the first time. A business such as the Cowbridge’s Food Health Co. which will pay business rates of £4,578 in 2017-18 would pay absolutely nothing across the border in England.
Let’s keep the Vale’s High Streets Open for Business, please shop local on Small Business Saturday and show your support for better business rate relief.