Town hall signs off relief fund for small businesses and pubs after huge rates hike

Stacey Thomas from The Lexington pub, Hak Huseyin, David Twydell, Cllr Asima Shaikh and Susan Croppe

Stacey Thomas from The Lexington pub, Hak Huseyin, David Twydell, Cllr Asima Shaikh and Susan Cropper, Loop Knitting. - Credit: Archant

The town hall has signed off a relief scheme to help small firms and pubs cope with the huge hike in business rates from central government.

Islington traders were hit with the third biggest rates increase in the country earlier this year – an average 42 per cent – and will collectively pay Whitehall an extra £315million.

To counter the hike, which in real terms has resulted in firms paying anywhere from £10,000 to £100,000 more a year, the town hall was given £8.6m to play with from a £300m national pot.

And at Thursday night’s executive meeting, it was agreed that it would be best used to help small firms, boozers and to launch a discretionary rate relief scheme.

Cllr Shaikh said: “We welcome this money and have set up a programme that will bring some rate relief to businesses and pubs in Islington who need it most.

“However, the £8.6m is a drop in the ocean compared with the £315m extra business will pay in the same period, and it is unlikely to ease the increased burden for most Islington businesses.”

She added: “While the rate relief money is welcome, it was very disappointing the government announced it at the last minute and with no warning – this greatly delayed the speed at which rate relief could be brought to those who need it most.”

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Earlier this year Cllr Shaikh joined representatives from the Islington Chamber of Commerce on a trip to Downing Street to hand in a petition with 14,250 signatures opposing the rise. The government refused to back down but did concede some ground and allocated the £300m relief fund.

But Hak Huseyin, owner of Absolute Prints in Junction Road, Archway, and co-vice chair of the Chamber of Commerce, said: “It’s an absolute joke. With businesses already closing with rising rents they have to content with, this is another nail in the coffin.

“Despite a Conservative manifesto about looking into the fairness of the rates system and the real cost to commercial rates, nothing has happened. Our town centres are in serious danger of going the way of the dodo.”

Bills with lower amounts for small businesses and pubs will begin to be sent out from next month.