MP to fight for lower town centre rates

MP Tim Yeo will raise the issue of reducing business rates for struggling shops in town centres like Sudbury with Secretary of State Eric Pickles.

Mr Yeo attended a meeting with around 40 retailers and residents at Sudbury Town Hall on Wednesday and was presented with a petition of 400 signatures calling for rateable values – the amount businesses have to pay to the local authority, for example Babergh District Council, to be lowered to ease pressure on smaller traders.

David Thompson, who runs three businesses in Gainsborough Street, Sudbury, and set up the petition, said: “We had representatives from Lavenham, Long Melford, Hadleigh and, of course, Sudbury.

“There were a few heated encounters and many shop owners made it clear that the whole rating system needs a drastic change. Basically, we want a fairer rating system and the bone of contention is why do supermarkets play less?”

Different zones are used to measure retail premises’ rates per square metre, which Mr Thompson believes gives out-of-town supermarkets, which pay comparatively lower rates, an unfair advantage.

“Mr Yeo did make it clear that central Government expects a specific amount in business rates revenue and, naturally, as more charity shops open and very small shops become exempt, there is little room for other businesses to win any sort of appeal in rate reduction,” said Mr Thompson.

Mr Yeo said the meeting had impressed upon him the concern about businesses being squeezed out of market towns and he would put the concerns to Mr Pickles, secretary of state for communities and local government.

“I am quite happy to take this matter up,” said Mr Yeo.

“There are some things like internet shopping that are unavoidable, but what we can do is try to alleviate these problems that town centre traders are facing.”