Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Conservatives win review of Narbeth rates hike

Civil servants have promised to review the 200+ % rates hike in Narberth after a public meeting called by local AM Angela Burns.

The South Pembrokeshire AM invited the Valuation Agency Office (VAO), who set the rates, to meet Narberth’s traders on Monday.

Seventy business people turned up to hear the VAO’s Brian Jones agree to look into the situation in the town.

“I was delighted that Mr Jones agreed with my suggestion to look into the town’s exceptionally large jump in rateable values,” said Mrs Burns.

“The meeting agreed to form a group of about six traders from all parts of town and covering a number of different types of business who will now collate evidence to give him.

“He has promised to review this in the next few weeks and he will hopefully return in early December to give us his findings.”

Shops, restaurants, pubs and hotels in Narberth have seen their rates bills increase on average from £3,800 to £12,000 in the latest revaluation.

The traders also agreed to collect a petition calling on the Welsh Assembly to take action.

“We need to get a petition together quickly that sets out just how grave the concerns are among the traders of this town,” said Conservative Parliamentary candidate Simon Hart who also attended the meeting.

“The VAO has fundamentally got its maths wrong,” said Gordon Barry from Narberth’s Chamber of Trade.

The two-hour meeting at the Old Courthouse was also attended by Pembrokeshire County Council’s head of revenue services and head of economic development.

Michael Hughes who runs the Tom Hughes clothes shop in Narberth is facing a 310 per cent increase in his rates bill. He said: “I also have a shop in Carmarthen where my bill is £350 per square metre. But in Narberth the bill is £450 – it’s absolutely bonkers.”

Mrs Burns has lobbied local government minster Brian Gibbons to increase the rateable exemptions and extend rate relief and she encouraged traders to write to him as well.

“In Northern Ireland the revaluation has been postponed and in England more rate relief will be available for smaller businesses,” she said. “We need similar help in Wales, especially in towns like Narberth which have been singled out for ridiculous rises.

“We have set to work straight away on collecting the evidence for the VAO and hope to hold another meeting in early December.”


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