MORE than a thousand pubs, shops and restaurants in York face a sharp hike in their business rates next month, prompting warnings of possible job losses and closures.
The ending of 'retail relief' by the Government means some shopkeepers and pub landlords face paying two or even three times as much, at a time when their margins are already extremely tight.
John Pybus, landlord of the Blue Bell in Fossgate, said he would have to pay 11 per cent more, just as he was facing other rising costs including a levy payment to York's BID (Business Improvement District) scheme, the new National Living Wage, compulsory pension contributions and increased wholesale prices.
Mr Pybus, pictured above, added: "We were also hit by York's loss of trade after the floods, and it would have been nice for the council to have pressed for businesses to have been given some relief in the light of this."
Steve Heyman, of Alligator Wholefoods in Fishergate, said his bill was almost doubling, and he thought at first there had been a mistake when he received the bill.
Frank Wood, of Braithwaites jewellers in Goodramgate, who chairs York Retail Forum, said several high profile city-centre shops were already closing and constantly rising costs could cause more to shut, and he asked: "Do we really want a high street without any shops?"
Steve Bradley, landlord of the Woolpack in Fawcett Street, near York Barbican, said his monthly payment was more than trebling, and the first he knew of it was when he received his bill from City of York Council, with no explanation or justification.
He said: "My margins are very, very tight and, with other increased costs coming, I am going to have to reduce my staffing."
City of York Council said that during 2015/16, more than 1,100 businesses received £125 per month of relief, adding: "Businesses were aware from our correspondence in relation to retail relief that the relief was temporary for two years until April 16. This was also announced in the autumn statement as well as in the media nationally."
Deputy council leader Keith Aspden, who has responsibility for economic development, said business rates were a considerable cost for many small businesses in York and there was a need for a national overhaul to ensure they were fair, efficient and effective.
"I would also call on the current Government to offer more support in next week’s budget and consider extending the retail relief in order to help many pubs and small business in the city deal with rising bills.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government said the small retailers' discount was always intended as a temporary measure but there was other support available.
“Local authorities have powers to provide relief to retailers facing difficulties and where they do choose to do so central government automatically funds 50 per cent of the costs," said a spokesman. "We have also doubled Small Business Rate Relief for a further year.
“The Government is reviewing reliefs as part of the wider business rates review which will conclude at the Budget.”