Rates relief row goes to government

Traders in Honiton want cap on number of charity shops allowed to claim rate relief in any one town. MP fears charities could be operating at an unfair advantage to private businesses.

FEARS that charity shops have an unfair advantage over private businesses in Honiton are to be discussed with government ministers.

A possible cap on the number of charity shops allowed to claim rate relief in any one town will be on the agenda when local MP Neil Parish takes forward complaints from shopkeepers.

Mandy Newman, who owns Beauchamp Place, in High Street, raised the thorny issue of charity shops receiving relief on business rates at a breakfast meeting attended by Mr Parish in Honiton last week.

The meeting was organised by Honiton and District Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Mrs Newman is concerned that, with nine charity shops in the town at the moment, private businesses are being lumbered with higher rates to make up for discounts being given to charities.

“She raised a very valid point,” Mr Parish told the Midweek Herald.

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“I am going to talk to ministers about the rate relief system.

“I am very keen to help charity shops, but not if it means they are competing unfairly with private shops.”

Every charity shop in Honiton currently receives 80 per cent rate relief, East Devon District Council admits.

However, the local authority points out the relief limit is set nationally and that, at present, it is powerless to reduce it.

Mrs Newman told Mr Parish, who was guest speaker at the breakfast meeting, held at Costa coffee shop last Friday, that a small town like Honiton cannot afford rate relief to eight business units occupied by charities.

She fears private businesses are having to make up the difference through ever-increasing rates and called for a limit to be imposed on the number of charities allowed to claim relief in any one town.

As a ball park figure, she suggested a limit of three - with additional charities wanting to open shops made to pay the full whack.

She complained that charities are splashing the cash on shop re-fits at a time when private businesses cannot afford such investments.

Mr Parish said: “What we don’t want is an overload of charity shops. I am not anti-charity shops, but am conscious of unfair advantages.

“I want to see diverse shops in Honiton.”

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