Easy to see why shops are closing

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LIKE other shopkeepers I am upset that footfall is dropping away in parts of the town centre and as a consequence shops are closing down. I believe that there are at least 10-12 either for sale or to let.

Some of these may have been able to survive if it were not for the fact that business rates have spiralled.

The Free Press article Business rates: what you need to know (May 10) omits a key ninth statement.

This should read: “Not all shop rates are assessed in the same way.”

Readers will know that for several years I have been lobbying both councillors and MPs about the unfair treatment that ‘in town’ shops receive compared with larger mainly ‘out of town’ stores.

This year I have been corresponding with Eric Pickles MP. This is the man who gleefully accepted the important, prestigious job, from the Prime Minister, of Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Part of that responsibility is, therefore, the Valuation Office Agency, which sets out the rules for valuing commercial premises for business rates.

Mr Pickles is, therefore, top of the food chain ie the boss. Unfortunately like many other ministerial bosses he is not master of his brief and his staff are not aware of how businesses are valued.

We are told by the VOA that all commercial properties are valued in the same way.

This statement is incorrect. Supermarkets and other ‘out of town’ stores are rated using the same criteria as industrial premises which allows them to pay only a third of the rates that we pay for the dubious privilege of running an ‘in town’ shop.

Are Sudbury Chamber of Commerce and the Sudbury Market Town Partnership aware that when Sainsbury’s opens in Cornard Road it will be rated as if it is an industrial unit and they, therefore, will pay only one third pro rata of our rates in Friars Street and possibly only a ninth of a shop on Market Hill?

Readers may be interested to know that in addition to our rates we have to pay extra to have our rubbish collected every week and to have key holder addresses logged privately as the police do not want to know!

The article by Neil Bracegirdle also mentions the “shopping guru” Mary Portas.

I suggest that readers look at website Portas Review. I have read the Review, some of her recommendations are sound common sense, some are platitudes, some are patronising but most is self-opinionated, self-promoting rubbish designed to advertise herself and for her to capitalise handsomely on the back of the free publicity.

The facts and figures given above have not been dreamt up by me. They have all been taken from official government websites.

IAN BERRY

Kestrel Bookshop

Friars Street

Sudbury