Tonbridge businesses have welcomed the Government’s latest budget which will reduce the rates on their premises.
With small and medium sized enterprises facing increased competition from internet-based firms and chain stores, moves to support local traders have been seen as vital to maintaining the health of the town.
Nicolas Heslop, leader of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council, estimates the latest national budget measures should mean nearly 1,000 companies in the area are set to pay no rates at all from April 2017.
He described last month’s budget as good news for small businesses, which he praised as ‘the backbone of the borough’s economic community’.
Mr Heslop said: “Currently small businesses occupying premises with a rateable value of £6,000 or under are eligible for 100 per cent rate relief and therefore pay no rates at all. Under the new proposals, eligibility would increase to those small businesses occupying premises of £12,000 rateable value or less.
“Although the detailed regulations have yet to be released, based on the current rating list, council staff calculated the number of businesses who would pay no rates at all is likely to increase from 588 to 965. An additional 46 businesses would receive ‘tapered’ relief from April 2017.”
He added that a further 906 businesses with a rateable value of less than £51,000 would also see a reduction in rates. In total, 53.4 per cent (1,900) of the borough’s firms are to benefit from the planned rate cuts.
Howard Porter, chair of Tonbridge Town Team, believed rate relief would have a key impact.
He said: “This is a welcome measure as we need to do all we can to help small businesses in the challenges they face, as they make up around 80 per cent of our economy.
“Having worked with farmers markets in the area, I know how much of a step it is for micro businesses to then move up to taking on premises that can carry risks.
“Reducing rates will help companies in the retail sector particularly. But we also need to assist businesses within the small scale manufacturing and creative industries in finding premises,” added the chairman, who said he would also like to see a reduction in commercial property rents to boost small businesses.
Jo James, CEO of Kent Invicta Chamber, shared his optimism, but agreed there was further work to be done in identifying a greater number of suitable premises for new businesses.
She said: “The extension to the Small Business Rate Relief has been extremely well received by our members and is seen as a timely boost during this period of slow growth.
“However, this measure is not enough on it’s own and the local authorities must continue to work on to resolve the longstanding issues of road infrastructure and available industrial space within West Kent.”