Business rates are ‘blighting landlords’ in Skegness

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CHANGES to business rates are putting undue strains on the already troubled financial situation - local entrepreneurs claim.

Low value empty commercial units, previously exempt from tax, recently had their exemption lifted, which landlords claim is driving them out of business.

Marie Ramsay who owns two units in Skegness said: “We are going to have to sell up because we cannot afford the £7,000 a year it is costing us just to keep them - we even thought about knocking them down.”

In February the government reduced the rateable value threshold under which empty units do not need pay business rates, affecting more than 300 businesses in East Lindsey.

That threshold had previously been increased as a concession to the difficulties already facing property owners in the economic downturn.

However business leaders feel that it is not only premature to revert to the threshold from times of economic prosperity but that the rates themselves are too high and contribute to many properties remaining vacant.

Chairman of Skegness and District Chamber of Commerce Glenis Brown said: “I don’t know how some people dare to take on properties these days with the costs so high. Along with everything else it’s just crippling, insurance has gone up and the business rates see extremely high around here.”

Although statistics show that Skegness has fewer empty units than the national average, local figures believe the nationwide model for setting business rates does not take into account the seasonal nature of business in coastal towns.

Skegness town centre manager Stefan Krause said: “The business rates are out of date and need to be more locally flexible.

“They do not take into account many of the factors affecting businesses at the present time.”

Mr Krause and the Association of Town Centre Management have lobbied central government to re-investigate the setting of business rates.

He also raised the suggestion that landlords of vacant properties can look towards charity shops as short term, rate-free occupants.

Businesses in financial difficulty may be eligible for East Lindsey District Council’s hardship relief scheme which can be offered in exceptional circumstances.

- Have you suffered from business rates? Email andrew.hirst@jpress.co.,uk