Chancellor’s helping hand to smaller firms

PLANS to ‘help the high street’ were unveiled in the chancellor’s Autumn Statement last week with business rates discounts among the highlights for retailers.

Capping business rates increases at two per cent, £1,000 discounts for small retailers and encouraging employers to take-on young people were among the announcements by George Osborne on Thursday.

Those moving into empty premises will also be entitled to rates discounts of 50 per cent, while national insurance contributions for young people have been cut, in an attempt to tackle youth unemployment.

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The plans were broadly welcomed by traders and business figures across the Herald and Gazette patch.

Bah Humbug Sweets owner Paul Wakeman said anything which helped small businesses with their rates was a positive.

He said: “Apart from labour and rent, business rates are the most expensive outgoing for us.

“Any news on them being cut or kept down low is good news, and what we need as a business to invest.”

Worthing town centre manager Sharon Clarke also welcomed the news on business rates.

She said: “Anything that helps businesses economically will be good for the town centre.

“There is more that could be done, though, elsewhere. I would have liked to see more regarding cutting red tape, in terms of planning regeneration.”

Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce CEO Tina Tilley said there were few surprises, but some aspects would be positive for small businesses.

She said: “There are plans for more start-up loans, but how accessible will these be?

“Encouraging people into empty shops and national insurance cuts are certainly positives, though.”

While the announcements will help many traders, Mr Wakeman said shoppers were still reluctant to spend.

He said: “We thought it was getting better in the summer but they are buying what they need, rather than what they want. They are saving money, which makes it hard for businesses like us.”