‘Grossly unfair’ business rates are pushing independent retailers out of the town centre, the chief executive of a business group has said.
Mark Cordell, chief executive of Bid4Bury said: “You have an unfair system based on 30-40 years ago when the high street was the best place to trade. That’s no longer the case.”
Town centre units have higher rents and, due to this, higher business rates.
In the Buttermarket, high rates may force Aise Tachiroglou, owner of Cafe Kottani, to look for new premises.
She said: “I did not think the business rates would be that much because it’s a small shop.”
Ms Tachiroglou has appealed the rates, which exceed £16,000 a year.
Mr Cordell said while Council Tax had been frozen, business rates had risen by almost 10 per cent in the last three years.
An FOI submitted by the Bury Free Press found that 382 businesses were late in paying the first instalment of their business rates this year.
Two months after the first instalment was due, 74 business had not made a payment.
The disincentive of high rates is recognised by Ian Dalrymple, director of Intersport, in Whiting Street.
He said: “The problem with the town centre is for a new business to open the overheads are prohibiting – you have high business rents and high business rates, so for an independent entrepreneur it’s very difficult.”
Mr Dalrymple echoed Mr Cordell’s view that rates do not recognise the modern retail market.
He has started a campaign pushing for a tax on internet traders who benefit from low overheads.
Margaret Barrett, owner of Butterworths in the Traverse, said the inflexibility of rates did not encourage retailers into the high street.
She said: “If they just reduce it, more people would take the risk.
“Our rent and rates together are about £18,000 – it’s a lot of money to find in your first year of business.”
The number of businesses late in making their first payment has fallen since 2011.
However, the number two months behind in payments peaked last year and has yet to fall back to its 2011 level.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council collects business rates but do not set them.
The council’s cabinet member for economic growth, Cllr Alaric Pugh, said: “St Edmundsbury supports businesses throughout the town centre by creating the right environment for success, although we are also developing an action plan looking at ways to give more direct support.”