Small businesses in St Albans district hit by cuts to rates relief

Tea in the Woods owner Sophie Reynolds

Tea in the Woods owner Sophie Reynolds - Credit: Archant

Small retailers in the district are reeling after discovering that relief they had been getting on their business rate has been scrapped.

The first they knew about the abolition of the retail rate relief was when they received their annual business rate demand which is collected by St Albans council on behalf of the government.

And it has left some fearing for the future with their charge due to more than double from this April.

Sophie Reynolds, who has run T in the Woods in Oakwood Road, Bricket Wood for two and a half years, said the increase in her business rate from £106 a month to £258 was ‘a massive difference’.

She went on: “It was a huge shock and from what I have seen online it has been a huge shock to a lot of other businesses too.”

Retail rate relief to help small businesses was a measure introduced by the government for 2014-15 and 2015-16 only and was at the discretion of local authorities for which they were reimbursed if they gave the relief.

Sophie contacted the council when she got her new business rates demand because she had not been told about the change and there had been no consultation. But she was told that nothing could be done about it.

Most Read

She went on: “I run a small tea room business which is more like a community cafe. The business has its costs and a £1,500 a year additional cost will make a massive difference to the bottom line.

“It has definitely had me considering what the future holds.”

Sophie said that she was determined to fight to ensure that the Bricket Wood community still had its tearoom but admitted that the increase in business rate amounted to a big chunk of her salary

She added: “We are lucky to be in an affluent area but the business rates seem as high as London.”

Paul Hargreaves of Mailbox Rental Services in Holywell Hill, St Albans, said he would have to pay an additional £1,800 from April. He went on: “That is profit so we have to turn over another £6,000 as well as having the new living wage to meet and pensions to meet.”

He pointed out that many businesses in the city were struggling. “Some of the small retailers face a 50 per cent increase in their business rate and some are even having to buy stock with their pensions.

“You have to pay rates before you can buy stock or even eat. And you can’t just give your shop up but have to find someone to take on the lease.”

Paul warned that the situation could worsen with new business valuations imminent and the cost of paying for St Albans to become a Business Improvement District (BID).

He added: “We will keep on fighting to survive but we pay a lot and get very little back locally.”