[dropcap type =”circle”]C[/dropcap]oncerns that high business rates may be deterring new businesses from setting up shop in Bicester are being investigated by Cherwell District Council.
Earlier this year Bicester’s residents and retailers used the Garden Town and Achieving Retail Success consultations to identify improvements to the town centre as their top priority.
Many of those who took part in the consultations suggested high business rates may be a reason for vacant units in the town so Cherwell will now review the bills of 217 units to determine if they qualify for a reduction or relief.
Cllr Lynn Pratt, Cherwell’s lead member for estates and the economy, said: “Business rates are decided at a Government level without any input from Cherwell. Although we don’t have the power to influence the price at which rates are set at, we do have the power to review how much each company is paying to ensure it is correct.
“We know from listening to people who live and work in Bicester that a thriving town centre is among their top priorities so we are working hard to make that happen. We are focusing on attracting new businesses to the area but it’s important to look after those who are already trading in the town so they can continue to prosper and create that all important footfall.”
Business rates are collected by Cherwell on behalf of the Government which sets the bill based upon the rateable value of the property. Part of the money is retained by the council to fund local services with the remainder being shared between Oxfordshire County Council and Central Government.
Over the coming weeks Cherwell officers will review the rateable values of business within an 84 acres area of the town centre to ensure they have not been overvalued. In addition, they will check to see if additional rates or reductions can be applied.
These will include small business rate relief which allows properties with a rateable value of less than £17,999 to receive a percentage reduction in their rates up to a maximum of 50 per cent or have their bill calculated using a smaller multiplier.
In addition, they will assess to see if any companies meet the exceptional circumstances required to qualify for hardship relief. This enables rates to be reduced or remitted if it is in the best interests of council tax payers or if the firm would suffer hardship without it.
If any businesses are identified as being eligible for a reduction in their business rates, Cherwell will deliver individual letters to inform them and assist them in the application process.
For more information on business rates visit www.cherwell.gov.uk/businessrates