Hull businesses want compensation for 'year-long massive loss of trade'

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 7 Apr 2017

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is calling on Hull City Council to compensate traders whose businesses have been hard hit by "disruptive" street works.

The East Yorkshire branch of the FSB says jobs and livelihoods are hanging in the balance because of the ongoing public realm works.

They have now launched a petition calling on the council to reimburse some of the money businesses have forked out in rates after enduring what they call a "year-long massive loss of trade".

Branch chairman John Olivant said: "Jobs and livelihoods have been placed in jeopardy for over a year as footfall in many town centre shops has fallen to unsustainable levels.

"We appreciate the need for redevelopment in readiness for the 2017 City of Culture, but the burden of lost trade should be borne by the city as a whole rather than on individual traders."

Business rates are collected by the council based on figures set by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA), which is part of HMRC. The council hands the money to the Treasury, which then redistributes it, with local authorities receiving 50 per cent of the amount collected.

In May, a number of city centre businesses effected by the works were gifted a business rate reduction by the VOA, which the council estimate was between 10 and 18 per cent.

Mark Harris of Brookes Menswear in King Edward Street said: "I have been here 14 years. For the past year I have been had to put at least £20,000 my own money into the business – if I hadn't then the business would not be here anymore, I would have shut at Christmas.

"The works have decimated trade. A 10 per cent rate relief is not even a drop in the ocean, the council should compensate us for the full amount we have paid.

"It is not just me, other traders are in the same position. I understand the works need to be done to improve the city centre. It will look better once the work is complete, but one year of poor trade can wipe out 14 years of hard work."

In July, Eden in Prospect Street was forced to close its doors due to lack of footfall.

Traders who ran the store said they had recorded a 50 per cent reduction in footfall since the council began its public realm improvements.

Eve Lomax, a sole trader and one of 33 contributors to the shop, said at the time the works had "decimated" the business.

She said: "The construction work in the area has massively reduced our footfall, which is worse when you think we are paying a higher rate than most other city shops to be in a high-footfall area."

Eden was the third shop to close in the street in a matter of months.

However, a spokeswoman for the council pointed out the council does not control business rates.

She said: "We are obliged to collect Business Rates based on the set rateable values, and can only collect a reduced amount in the event that the VOA reduce a rateable value either permanently or temporarily.

"There have been approximately 150 reductions in rateable value as a result of the appeals regrading the public realm works. The amount of reduction varies but is generally between 15 per cent and 18 per cent.

"The 50 per cent of the business rates we get back is one of our fundamental income streams that forms the council's base budge, which is for core council services, such as adult social care, waste, and highways."

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