The Leader presented the report to Council regarding the non-domestic rates paid by businesses in Newport and in particular the city centre.
The report considered adopting two schemes, firstly the Welsh Government’s Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Rate Relief scheme 2022 (Part A of the report) and a new Newport City Centre Local Rate Relief Scheme (Part B of the report).
Firstly, the Leader highlighted the Welsh Government Scheme, which outlined a continuation of the previous relief arrangements, but at a reduced maximum rates relief of 50% to qualifying businesses across the city.
This was fully funded by Welsh Government and was a national scheme in Wales. It was an extremely valuable scheme offering support for up to 1,200 businesses in Newport and recognised that support was still required for this sector as they attempted to ‘recover’ from the impacts of the pandemic over the last two years.
Secondly, the Leader highlighted the local city centre scheme. This was completely new, and unique to the City Centre.
It represented a significant investment and focus on businesses in the city centre and illustrated how the Council proposed to help them ‘recover’ after the last two years.
Whilst the national Welsh Government funded scheme was welcomed and would provide rate relief to those in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors, the Council recognised that the scheme alone would not be sufficient to address the problems faced by the Newport city centre. The second innovative scheme therefore, was designed to assist existing businesses to remain viable post-covid and to incentivise new businesses to open in empty city centre retail units, building on the national scheme.
The number of empty shops in Newport has remained persistently high, as well as being unsightly. The longer these units remained empty, the harder they were to let. It was important that existing viable businesses were supported as well, especially after the economic shock of the pandemic.
If adopted, the Newport City Centre Local Rate Relief Scheme would see eligible businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sector receive 25% of the full rates payable in the form of a reduction on their rate bill. Those eligible would also to receive the Welsh Government relief and the Newport City Centre Local Rate Relief, further reducing their bill, and in most cases, they would only have 25% of the rates to pay in 2022-23.
It was proposed that the scheme would run for a second year and eligible businesses will then, assuming no further national scheme is in place, have 25% business rate relief.
It was anticipated that the Newport City Centre Rate Relief would make the centre of Newport a more attractive proposition to new businesses, whilst assisting existing businesses to overcome the covid pandemic and remain viable.
The report detailed those businesses that were eligible and it was predicted that it would assist up to approximately 160 businesses in the city centre. The scheme was carefully designed to:
· target the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors as they were particularly affected by the Covid pandemic
· be comprehensive for businesses and administration for the Council was straightforward as the scheme replicated much of the Welsh Government’s national scheme in terms of eligibility
· focus on the city centre providing significant benefits for all residents from this investment, due to anticipated employment opportunities and a better ‘street environment’
· be specifically aimed at reducing the current number of vacant premises, in conjunction with other existing economic development grants
· limit the rate to 25% and apply the scheme to properties with Rateable Values at or under £50k, enabling the scheme to operate for two years, and allow sufficient time for recovery in the sector; balancing this with the cost of any scheme.
The Leader hoped that Council would agree that it represented a significant opportunity to support business, the city and its residents, with a carefully targeted scheme, helping existing businesses to recover and encourage new businesses into our city centre. The Leader moved the adoption of the proposed rate relief schemes, as set out in the Report. This was duly seconded and put to the vote. There were no amendments or comments.
Council agreed to adopt the Welsh Government's Retail, Leisure and Hospitality Rate Relief Scheme for 2022-23 and the Newport City Centre Local Rate Relief Scheme, by making the appropriate determinations and decision, included within the report, as required by Sections 47(1)(a) and 47(3) of the Local Government Finance Act 1988.