Hitchin town centre manager welcomes budget’s business rate relief

Hitchin town centre manager Tom Hardy has reacted to the 2020 budget. Picture: Supplied

Hitchin town centre manager Tom Hardy has reacted to the 2020 budget. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

Hitchin’s town centre manager has reacted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s budget that was announced earlier this week – describing the relief packages as coming at the “perfect time”.

Tom Hardy has shared his thoughts with the Comet on Rishi Sunak's 2020 budget, which saw a number of big spending promises which could have a big impact on Hitchin-based businesses.

He said: 'I have spent the past two years liaising with the local MP Bim Afolami and other town and city centre managers on the issues surrounding business rates and urgent need for reductions and reform.

'The town centre and the way people use it has changed dramatically, and although our vacancy rate is half the national average, many businesses are finding the current trading environment challenging.

'There has been a surge in online businesses, which are not constrained to the same financial commitments as high street stores.

'The recent Chancellors' budget has been welcome news to over 170 Hitchin businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.

'This may be seen to some people as a quick fix solution but does go a long way to creating a financially fairer distinction between online and high street businesses. Over the next financial year, the town centre will see a much needed £1.9m saving in business rates.

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'As well as this, the business rates discount scheme for pubs will rise from £1,000 to £5,000 and those eligible for the 'small business rates relief' will get a £3,000 cash grant.

'The Chancellor also announced a number of ways the Government will be reducing the interruption that the COVID-19 may bring to local businesses. Those with fewer than 250 staff will be refunded for sick pay payments for two weeks and small businesses will be able to access 'business interruption' loans of up to £1.2m.

'Considering the challenges the high street has been facing, the impact of Brexit and the uncertainty of the recent COVID-19 outbreak, this financial relief has come at the perfect time for our town centre businesses.

'The Hitchin BID is working harder than ever to substantially increase our activities to deliver a programme of projects and initiatives that work towards keeping the town centre a vibrant, clean, safe and well promoted environment.

'It was also announced that the business rates system - as a whole - would be reviewed, with the conclusions published in autumn 2020.

'As the organisation that represent Hitchin Town Centre businesses, we are keeping a close eye on these autumn announcements and liaising with the local MP and businesses to ensure all aspects are considered and voices heard.'