A WIGAN shop owner priced out of business by “sky-high” rates has spoken of his frustration in having to close after decades of trading.
Alan Lesbirel, who runs Glitz home accessories in the Galleries, has started a clearance sale after “running out of options.”
A former winner of a Wigan Business Award said the government’s inflexibility when it comes to calculating business rates had pushed him into a corner.
He said: “The business has been going 25 years this year, we have had help from our landlord but the rates are set by the Treasury.
“Everyone is paying ridiculous amounts and it’s making it increasingly difficult to keep going. They should be 40 or 50 per cent of what they are now.
“We have had customers, loyal regulars who we have known through the years, who have said they want to start a petition to help us.
“And we have a legal firm fighting our case (in an attempt to get reduced rates) but they have told me the process could take years and I just haven’t got that long to keep the business going.”
Business rates are set by central government’s Valuation Office Agency but traders have criticised that the formula used to calculate them has not been updated to reflect the state of the economy and changes in shopping habits, such as the influx of web-only firms trading solely online.
Chambers of Commerce across the country have lobbied ministers to reform the system.
Under the current system, local authorities receive 50 per cent of the funds raised through business rates with the rest sent to Westminster.
But in Wigan - under new proposals brought about by the Greater Manchester devolution agreement - the town hall could soon be allowed to keep 100 per cent of business rates.
Even Wigan Athletic has hit out at the rates system, last month claiming the club’s bill at the DW Stadium is six times the average for other League One clubs.
Earlier this year Wigan’s Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) included rates reform as one of its top 10 recommendations for the new government.
Alan, 63, who lives in Billinge said he had no plans to retire but is now calling time on the shop that won Family Business of the Year in 2012.
He said: “My two daughers, Gaynor and Michelle, will be out of a job but the numbers just don’t add up.
“We have to pay £18,000 a year and the rates are still calculated as if we are in a prime location but there’s some empty units in the Galleries now and footfall has fallen.
“It’s heart-breaking for my wife (Georgina) and me.”
The Government is currently undertaking a review of business rates and ministers will report their findings in 2016.