The Council may decide on Tuesday to introduce a 50% discount on Business Rates for any “empty” shop brought back into use in “Acomb”. The discount would apply for up to 18 months.
The Council still continues in a state of denial about public service standards in the Front Street area.
Weeds, potholes, litter and graffiti all add to the “run down” appearance of parts of the area.
Now the economic recovery is well established properties are already being brought back into use. There are currently only 3 premises in “Acomb” which have been empty for 12 months or more.
The proposed discount scheme is similar to that introduced by the Coalition Government last autumn which awards 50% relief after a shop, that has been empty for 12 months, is reoccupied.
The Coalition Government had previously given powers in April 2012 to Councils who wished to extend Rate discount schemes to commercial premises. Quite why it has taken the York Council over 2 years to consider using these powers in Front Street has not been explained.
The Council will now consider making the 50% discount available to premises from the moment that they become empty. Although it is intended to fill the gap in provision for the period up to 12 months (when the mandatory government scheme kicks in) there is clearly a flaw in using taxpayers money to subsidise national chains who move into prime sites immediately leases become available.
No doubt their shareholders would be delighted to receive a profits boost of this sort while existing shops might rightly brand the subsidy as unfair competition.
A more sensible approach would be for the Council to focus its discounts on properties which have been empty for over 3 months.
Business rates are not payable on a commercial property for the first 3 months that it is empty anyway.
Empty properties with a rateable value of under £2,600 are entirely exempt from Business Rates
The terms for the discounts in what the Council labels the “Acomb Business Development District” appear to have been thrown together in some haste.
- The area that the discount will apply within is not defined (the Council papers refer only to “Acomb”)
- The Council scheme is restricted to retail premises. The government scheme applies to all businesses
- It is unclear how the temporary occupation of shops (so called “pop up” units, display only exhibitions and voluntary organisation use) will affect entitlements.
- Para 15 of the paper suggests that applications have to be linked to “the three ambitions set out above” These refer to young enterprises, listed buildings and re-locations
- The paper also suggests that applications will only be considered once a year with a September deadline (!)
- Small retailers are entitled to £1000 off their Rates (Rateable value of £50,000 or less) although not all traders have, as yet, applied for this discount.
- Rates relief is available for existing small businesses (premises with a Rateable value of less than £12,000)
- Charities and amateur community sports clubs get at least 80% Rates relief