INDEPENDENT shops in Rochdale could be in jeopardy because of the “Government’s failure on business rates”, MP Simon Danczuk has argued.
Speaking in a Parliamentary debate on the future of the high street, Mr Danczuk raised concerns that dozens of small shops could go under when the Government’s retail rate relief scheme comes to an end later this month.
Over 900 Rochdale businesses have benefitted from the scheme, which was announced in the 2013 Autumn Statement, amounting to £1.1m in overall relief.
Calling for the scheme to be extended, Mr Danczuk said: “Many of those benefiting from this relief have used it to invest in their shops and employ more staff.
“This money doesn’t get diverted through some obscure offshore account. It gets spent in our communities, where it has a direct impact.”
Mr Danczuk cited the example of Dale Nugent, owner of Rochdale Mobility, who has benefitted from both the national rate relief and a Rochdale Council initiative to cut rates for new businesses for the first two years.
With the Government scheme due to end this month, and the Council one taper down, Mr Nugent will see his business rates rocket from £2,000 a year to £8,000.
Mr Danczuk said: “Dale provides a vital service for many disabled people in Rochdale. His customers can’t just ‘pop to Oldham or Bury’ as easily as other people.
“He is a good, friendly business owner – his customers like to see him, and often go in for a chat.
“But because of the Government’s failure on business rates we could see this vital business in jeopardy.”
Commenting after the debate, Mr Nugent said: “My rates are going to quadruple. But this won’t just affect me, it will be all the small shops in Rochdale and across the UK. It’s a massive thing.
“It will be the independent shops, the forgotten shops of Rochdale, which will close.
“The local council seem to want to help but their hands are tied by the Government which has cut the funding.
“A lot of the big retailers are switching to online, which has no overheads, and we’ve got to compete with that. Combine that with the rates going up and what chance have we got?
“Anyone in Westminster who thinks this isn’t a problem, I would gladly sell them my shop for £1 and we’ll see how well they get on.”
Mr Danczuk, who serves as Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group, also used the debate to repeat his call for small business to be lifted out of rates altogether.