SMALL businesses in Bolton are set to benefit from a £1,000 discount in business rates.
Bolton Council’s cabinet rubber-stamped a government offer to reduce the rates for small companies — including pubs, shops, restaurants and cafes — with a rateable value of £50,000 or less.
It also backed plans to give a 50 per cent discount to businesses that move into a unit which has been empty for a year or more and make all newly-built commercial properties exempt from empty property rates for up to 18 months.
Chief executive of Bolton Council Sean Harriss said the step was a good move.
He added: “Any initiative that reduces costs for businesses in the current economic climate is welcome. We hope it will stimulate the local economy.”
Alex McVey, manager of Odessa Cafe in Exchange Street, said his business will benefit from the discount, but he thinks more needs to be done to help independent companies in Bolton.
He added: “Anything helps. One thousand pounds is not insignificant but it needs to be more.
“Shops are closing for a reason, and for independent business like me it’s hard work.”
Dave Jones, managing director of Bolton-based Progressive Business Mentoring which works with companies across the region, welcomed the news but warned it might not be enough to transform the fortunes of the high street.
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He said businesses are currently being unfairly bracketed at pre-recession, 2008 rates, and that a government decision to postpone re-evaluating them until 2017 is damaging Bolton companies.
He added: “This announcement about a discount in business rates certainly is welcome, but more needs to be done.”
Bolton Council announced in October it had set aside £1.5m to encourage more businesses to open.
As part of the ‘business support scheme’, companies could receive grants of £20,000 or more if they took over empty units.
Peter McGeehan, who runs Ye Olde Toffee Shoppe in Horwich, said he was forced to close his second shop in Bolton town centre because rents and business rates were too high.
He said: “This announcement about the rates grant would help us to get back to where we want to be, with another shop in Bolton town centre.”