£220,000 a year for town centre businesses

Empty premises in The Galleries
Empty premises in The Galleries

COMPANIES trading in Wigan town centre face business rates bills of almost £200,000 a year for the borough’s best retail spots.

Figures published on the website of the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), the department responsible for setting the controversial charges, reveals the cost of doing business on the high street.

Several units in the Grand Arcade had a rateable value of more than £200,000, with one of the centre’s biggest shops being judged to be worth £447,500.

Small businesses must currently pay 46.2 per cent of the property’s rateable value, with larger firms having to shell out 47.1 per cent of the value, under a process known as the current multiplier, which is set by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

The business rates are used by the local authority to fund essential services, but the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce says they are disproportionately hitting smaller businesses and making it difficult for local, independent traders to stay on the high street.

Emma Antrobus, the Chamber’s member policy and campaigns manager, said: “We know from a number of our members that business rates have out-stripped rental values and this is impacting most significantly on independent retailers on high streets across the region.

“The economic difficulties in recent years, coupled with the growth of online retailing, have also contributed to the problems retailers are facing. As the economy starts to recover, we need local authorities to help support both start-up and existing businesses on the high street.

“While business rates are a national issue, local authorities can offer some discretionary support on business rates. However, we recognise that they are suffering from serious budget cuts that make this difficult.

“Over the coming year, the Chamber will be contributing to the review of the business rates system and working hard to ensure that businesses get a better deal.

“The system as it currently stands is fundamentally broken, and small, fiscally-neutral changes that the Chancellor may make within this week’s Budget speech will not be enough to give businesses a firmer footing against this iniquitous tax.”

The VOA website shows the cost of many of Wigan’s most popular retail and business venues, with one unit in The Galleries being given a rateable value of £225,000 and other traders looking to move into the venue facing costs of up to £30,000 to keep premises.

Offices on Bridgeman Terrace have been given rateable values between £5,000 and more than £30,000, while the most expensive units on Hallgate and Jaxons Court had rateable values in excess of £10,000 and some business owners on Market Street were looking at five-figure sums in business rates each year.

The problems of a system based on floor space were revealed by the case of a large pub in Scholes being charged more in rates than a more compact watering hole in a prime town centre location.

Two petrol stations on Atherton Road, in Hindley, were also listed with one having a rateable value of £19,000 and the other just £6,000. Other firms with large premises, such as garages and repair workshops, are also hit hard, with one in Newtown having to fork out almost £20,000 in business rates.