Honiton: Cruel blow for High Street traders

JUST as traders in High Street, Honiton, appeared to be weathering the economic storm, a fresh blow now threatens to put many out of business.

JUST as traders in High Street, Honiton, appeared to be weathering the economic storm, a fresh blow now threatens to put many out of business.

New rental valuations for business rates will push up bills and cripple already struggling businesses, according to shop owner David Welch, of Surfer's Paradise.

His rates are likely to rise to �6,400 next year - more than three times what he was paying when he opened the shop in 2004.

The Valuation Office Agency has set the rate, which East Devon District Council will collect.

"It could, potentially, put me out of business," Mr Welch told the Herald.

"If we have to pay �6,400, we won't be here.

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"I haven't taken any wages from the business for a year and this is just not fair."

Mr Welch, who will have to pay the new rate from April next year, described the bill as "ridiculous". "It's absolutely crazy," he said.

When Mr Welch opened his shop five years ago, his bill for business rates was �1,800. This year, the cost was �4,800.

Goldsmith Scott Wolfe said: "I pay �3,480 a year in business rates and I've always been unhappy about it.

"It's a lot for a small town."

Other High Street traders told the Herald they have yet to receive an indication of how much they will be expected to pay from 2010.

However, many complained. One accused the Government of being "determined to put small shops out of business".

Mr Welch said: "I don't get much for my rates. I have to pay to have my rubbish taken away."

Although a scheme exists to offer small businesses rate relief, traders like Mr Welch do not qualify.

"The smaller your rent, the more relief you seem to get. And rents are generally high in Honiton," he said.

Mr Welch worked out his bill for next year, based on his shop's new rateable value.

A Valuation Office spokesman said:

"Rental values are used to work out rateable values. In some areas, due to demand, rental values rise, relative to the national average, and demand falls in other areas.

"Revaluation does not raise extra business rates - it is designed to maintain fairness by ensuring that rateable values reflect these changes in the market. An increase in rateable value does not necessarily mean an increase in the rates bill - in fact, 60 per cent of businesses will see a reduction in the rates bill from their council as a result of revaluation.

"Businesses should check the details of the VOA's valuation as soon as they receive it, and contact us with any issues as soon as possible to ensure their bill is accurate. Full information is available at www.voa.gov.uk/2010"

n For some good news about High Street, turn to page 8.

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