‘Give us some relief’
Business rates have come under fire again after another independent trader in Sudbury was forced to call time at the weekend.
JBS Family Butchers based in the Borehamgate Precinct in Sudbury officially closed on Saturday.
Owner John Sawyer was highly critical of business rates and rents charged to traders in town centres and warned several other businesses in the town were struggling to stay afloat.
Ian Berry, who runs the Kestrel Bookshop in Friars Street, Sudbury, said: “The unfair way in which business rates have been assessed since 1988 is one of the main reasons that retailing in the town centres throughout the UK has been, and is now arguably why, small retailers are reluctant to start up.
“In Sudbury town centre the rateable values are up to nine times those of shops like Sainsbury’s and Tesco.”
Chris Storey, chairman of the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, said that the current system was calculated on historic figures which could lead to difficulty in assessing the affordability of rent.
“When there is a downturn businesses find it hard, they need the custom and some might not survive.”
He said the most important thing for the town was for it to be attractive to potential businesses, therefore ensuring empty shops would be filled.
Already Weston’s Bakery in the precinct has shut, and with reports of QD Stores possible arrival in the town there is doubt over the future of Thing-Me-Bobs in the precinct, as the company is owned by the QD Group.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne has said that business rates will be reviewed, however, Mr Berry said he was not hopeful of a successful outcome for small business owners.
“This will come too late for the many thousands of retailers that have already packed up,” he said.
“All retailers must be assessed using a level playing field. I am not holding my breath as big business will again win.”
Mr Storey said that supermarkets were here to stay and businesses needed to find their own way of competing.
“It’s very difficult for any organisation to do very much when it [business rates] is a national framework.
“There will be a review and undoubtedly there will be some changes but people have got used to going to one place for all their products for a knock-down price. It’s hard to see how that is going to change.
“It’s a very complex picture. Business have to offer what people want when they are in the town.”