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Big News On Vacant Shop Units: Rates Discount Bonanza

Jonathan Schofield ponders an 18 month, 50% rates discount

Written by . Published on May 22nd 2014.

Big News On Vacant Shop Units: Rates Discount Bonanza

THIS seems to have slipped under the radar but it could be of huge significance.

There's already been sign of an unswing with Jigsaw and Bravissimo moving into King Street, this will provide a strong incentive to convert other interest into lettings.

A council press release from a couple of weeks ago reveals: 'Businesses moving into empty premises could get their business rates bills cut in half under new plans aimed at revitalising Manchester’s neighbourhoods.

'Manchester City Council is asking companies and individuals that benefit their local areas to contact them and apply for a 50 per cent discount on their rates bills.

'To qualify for the discount, the businesses need to be moving into buildings which have been empty for 12 months or more, but which were originally used as shops or other retail premises. 

'Businesses which move into these premises between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2016 may be able to qualify for the 18 month discount.'

The way this read made Confidential believe it was applicable to various suburbs in the administrative area of the City of Manchester. 

But no, when we enquired the council told us, 'it applies to all areas including the city centre'.  

Excluded from this generous discount will be betting shops, payday loan companies and pawn brokers. An excellent idea. 

The only condition is that the business 'provides a service that benefits the local community'.

This sounded a warning bell.

Will businesses moving into empty shop premises have to prove they serve locally sourced foods, or sell clothes made within in a three mile radius? 

Surely a functioning business providing employment and offering a service, naturally benefits communities?

Empty on King Street - for months and years


Empty on King Street - for months and years

The council agrees with this sentiment it seems, anything goes apart from 'undesirable' trades:

'In terms of who we'd class as benefiting the local community, there's no exhaustive list of businesses that will or won't be approved, but we can turn applications down if we feel they would have a detrimental effect on the community. 

'Examples of this include not supporting betting shops, pawnbrokers or payday lenders, but we'd have to consider applications from take aways or pubs in the context of the impact they'd have on the community. Another example would be that we would not want to support an adult shop in a row of shops near a local school.'

Alun Jones of Edwards and Co., chartered surveyors on King Street, is excited about the scheme.

"This could be a huge boost for the sector," he says. "In areas such as King Street the true rental values are 60% of the previous peak, a large discount on rateable values could be very significant in converting interest into lettings. There's already been sign of an unswing with Jigsaw and Bravissimo moving into King Street, this will provide a strong incentive for other would-be tenants to re-visit the city centre and other areas of Manchester."

On streets such as King Street businesses could get tens of thousands of pounds worth of discount. 

The scheme was adopted by the City Council following last month’s executive meeting, after the government gave local authorities the powers to grant relief to ratepayers in certain circumstances. 

Apparently the discounts will not affect the City Council’s own finances, as the government will pay back any money which is lost under the scheme. 

Cllr Jeff Smith, Manchester City Council’s executive member for finance, said: "This will provide an excellent boost for people setting up new businesses or planning on doing so, while it will also encourage companies to move into properties which have been sitting empty for more than a year. This is going to help revitalise streets across our city by helping put an end to empty premises which often blight neighbourhoods." 

Businesses - and remember the word is businesses not just retail -wanting to apply for the discount should contact the council here.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter @JonathSchofield or connect via Google+ 

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13 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Poster BoyMay 22nd 2014.

The less charitable might see this as short term doping of the economy in the run up to the election. 'Help To Buy' anyone...?

4 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousMay 22nd 2014.

They might. Or they might think it was the council trying to solve a problem. But thanks for your negative take on it.

AnonymousMay 22nd 2014.

I don't think Poster Boy is being negative. Healthy skepticism. It's no coincidence that 18 months straddles the 2015 general election. It's a change initiated by the coalition government that's been implemented by a Labour controlled council. Who's taking credit?

AnonymousMay 22nd 2014.

It's not like Labour need any more of the vote here, is it?

AnonymousMay 23rd 2014.

Anon 3:12, but Labour can then use Manchester as a errr Poster Boy!

AnonymousMay 22nd 2014.

This was part of George Osborne's statement in November last year.

AnonymousMay 22nd 2014.

This is excellent news but Poster boy has a point. Aren't business rates controlled by central government not the council?....Just asking before David et al turn up

1 Response: Reply To This...
JoanMay 22nd 2014.

Yep. As JS says above "The scheme was adopted by the City Council following last month’s executive meeting, after the government gave local authorities the powers to grant relief to ratepayers in certain circumstances." What JS didn't say is that Jigsaw and Bravissimo are relocations, either temporary or permanent, from the now-correctly-named Corn Exchange, which is undergoing a revamp.

AnonymousMay 22nd 2014.

So long as the City Council doesn’t lose out on revenue from businesses, which they should be putting back into the city for things like Policing, Street Cleaning and repairing the fabric of the city- which also blights the city. Otherwise that budget (barely providing a skeleton service as it is) will be further loaded on the taxpayer already paying higher Council Tax rates than most of Central London. That’ll make the scheme less of an election winner and suggestive that we "aren't all in it together."

AnonymousMay 22nd 2014.

So sad. King Street was THE place to be seen shopping back in the '90s. It would be terrible if it filled up with places selling e-cigarettes and calling cards to Bangladesh.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
rinkydinkMay 22nd 2014.

Is this Victoria Wood?

AnonymousMay 23rd 2014.

I can remember when Oldham St was part of the main shopping area, with Affleck and Brown the posh store around there. No street has a right to stay as it was, and if King Streets future is more downmarket then so be it.

AnonymousMay 23rd 2014.

Isn't this just another public subsidy for businesses and landlords? Like tax credits and housing benefit topping up low wages and paying high rents? So the landlords keep the rents sky high while the public take a cut on the rates.

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