Plans to slash business rates to get empty Leeds premises buzzing

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TAXES for small businesses are set to be slashed by up to 80 per cent as Leeds council bosses bid to tempt firms into the city’s vacant shops and unfilled office spaces, and drive the city’s economic bounceback.

The council’s cabinet will today (Wednesday, March 5) rubberstamp plans to start awarding relief from business rates to more categories of business ratepayer from April 1.

It’s all part of an overall drive to boost economic growth, and to increase the business rates base in the city.

Various schemes are being considered, including a 50 per cent discount up to a maximum of £10,000 to organisations “willing to contribute resources to civic priorities without otherwise receiving financial reward”.

Other options are three years of staggered discounts for new businesses, starting at 80 percent in the first year, 50 per cent in the second and 20 per cent in the third.

Empty listed buildings currently get 100 percent relief, but to bring them back into use, a similar sliding scale of discounts could be applied to firms willing to move into these buildings.

A report to be presented to senior decision-making councillors today says: “There are significant advantages in using rates relief to enable and encourage civic enterprise from our partners, to support target businesses and to incentivise the renovation of Listed Buildings,

“Rates relief provides a financially advantageous and robust mechanism to provide uncontroversial support to partners at our discretion.”

The report adds that firms which fulfil key priorities, like civic enterprise, young businesses and re-use of heritage buildings, will be favoured for the scheme, which is made possible under the powers of the Localism Act.

The move to slash rates in Leeds comes in the same week that a committee of MPs demanded a “wholesale review” of business rates to support local economies, particularly high street retailers. The Business Committee’s report said it was time for “fundamental reform” and that the current system is “not fit for purpose”.

Leeds Lib Dem councillor Ryk Downes was among those welcoming what he called a “reversal in policy for commercial rates relief to bring empty shops back into use”. He said he first mooted the idea 18 months ago.

“It is so important to help businesses that are just starting up, allowing them the time and space to establish themselves instead of worrying how to afford the tax levied,” he said. “I have seen the struggling shop parades in my own ward of Otley and Yeadon with empty units which could have been filled so much sooner. We all know the benefits that thriving local high streets bring to their communities.” WHAT DO YOU THINK? Click here to register and have your say on the stories and issues that matter to you

Date: 11th November 2017. 'Picture James Hardisty. The 'Leeds Grand Quarte in New briggate. Pictured The Howard Assembly Room at Opera North.

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