IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Empty feeling: shops struggling to stay open

Small businesses need urgent help, government told

26 October, 2018 — By Samantha Booth

Councillor Asima Shaikh with Hak Huseyin, vice-chairman of Islington Chamber of Commerce

THE Government has been urged to review its business rates system or watch as small businesses that are struggling to cope shut up shop.

The Islington Chamber of Commerce, along with the Town Hall, is asking for the threshold for discounted rates to rise from £12,000 to £20,000 ahead of the autumn Budget next week.

Traders in the borough have seen some of the biggest business rate increases in the country – an average of 42 per cent rise – following the government’s national revaluation last year.

Hak Huseyin, vice-chairman of Islington Chamber of Commerce, said: “As you drive through Islington, or even near my own business on a relatively busy street in Junction Road, when you look you see shops empty for longer.

“As soon as you see shops starting to close, you see the area has a drastic change.”

The council estimates that over the past 18 months, 200 shops have closed in the borough.

The council’s data does not reveal why but Mr Huseyin, who owns Absolute Print, on Junction Road, said there are several factors involved in the decline, such as increased rents.

However, he said the government should be assisting them by lowering business rates, not making it harder for them to survive.

He saw his own rates go from £7,000 to £12,000 in the rise.

“When someone was closing a business 10 years ago, someone would be in there quickly, whereas they are now coming to the high street thinking, what are they going to do with the rates?”

Local discounts and the Small Business Rates Relief Scheme do exist. The Town Hall’s discount scheme – which uses £8.59million of government money – decreases gradually until 2020/21.

The petition also called for fairer business taxes by making multi-national online busineses pay their “fair share” and calls for a review of the rates system for small busineses.

Councillor Asima Shaikh, the Town Hall’s executive member for inclusive economy and jobs, said: “Small businesses are at the heart of our community, creating jobs and opportunities, but many have been hit hard following the government’s increases in rateable values.

“We’re strongly supporting this call for the Government to increase the threshold for Small Business Rates Relief – it would make a huge difference to Islington’s smallest businesses.”

A government spokes­man said: “Town centres and high streets are a crucial part of our local and regional economies, creating jobs, nurturing small businesses and injecting billions of pounds into our economy.

“To support them we have provided £435m of support to business ratepayers.

“We have also doubled Small Business Rate Relief for eligible businesses, and raised the 100 per cent relief threshold, meaning that over 600,000 small businesses now pay no business rates at all.”

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