The Welsh Conservatives are listening to Welsh businesses and asking how the cut in business rates relief from 75% to 40% for the retail, leisure and hospitality sector passed by the Labour Government in their draft budget will affect their businesses.
In response, Justin Horton who runs Funky Monkey, a children’s clothes shop in Penarth, said:
“The new policy will be devastating for our family business and will mean that our annual rates bill will increase from £1,600 p/a to £4,000 p/a - more than double.
“This, combined with the continuing downturn in High Street footfall and retail sales will reduce our viability further and could ultimately lead to us closing our shop.
“People love coming to the High Street and, when you ask them to explain why, it's because of shops like ours. Shops like ours are the heart and soul of a town centre, we're what makes towns interesting and exciting places to be. But the current business rates model is wrong and it urgently needs changing.
“Do we want a world where every town centre looks the same with no individuality; a world where people mostly order online and nobody talks to each other in their local shop?”
Tim Strong, who is Director of the Glen-Yr-Afon House Hotel in Usk, said:
“For us as a business, this will more than double our rates bill for next year – that’s a big cost.
“The difficulty for us will be the disparity between hospitality in Wales and hospitality in England, just across the border – we’ll be on the back foot.
“It is a let-down and I feel it’s a very short-sighted move, I think they [the Labour Welsh Government] need to, particularly at this point in time, help businesses, nurture businesses a bit more.”
Asked if the policy will alter the decisions he would have to make around staffing, Tim added:
“It will come straight off our bottom line. So yes, that would be a big consideration.”
Commenting on these responses, Peter Fox MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Finance Minister said:
“This effective doubling of business rates by Labour, backed up by Plaid Cymru, will devastate Welsh businesses.
“Businesses have been clear in their conversations with me that this decision was wrong and that the retail, leisure and hospitality sector will suffer as a result. Wales already had the highest business rates in Britain.
“The Welsh Conservatives want to see Labour’s rates relief cut reversed and will continue to campaign tirelessly to that end, in support of Welsh businesses to reform the tax on growth.”