A NEW business rate relief scheme that will help some shops, cafes and bars could prove a lifeline for town centre traders, St Helens Council believes.
Senior councillors approved measures which will benefit retail premises with a rateable value of £50,000 or less.
The local authority estimates it will offer a collective benefit of £580,000 to small firms.
This relief is intended to support retailers and town centres as they adapt to the backdrop of changing customer habits, particularly online shopping.
The plight of St Helens town centre and the need for it to be given fresh impetus and help is one of the most common concerns raised by Star readers.
The scheme is being introduced after Chancellor George Osborne announced in the Autumn Statement that the Government would provide relief up to £1,000 in each of the next two financial years to firms who meet the required criteria.
Business in the shops, restaurants, cafes and pubs and bars sectors will benefit. But banks, financial institutions, bookmakers, estate agents, and medical services will not qualify.
The full cost to the council will be reimbursed by government.
Councillor Jeff Fletcher, cabinet member for finance and corporate services, said: “This is a great opportunity for us to get behind our local small and specialist shops.
“It will support retailers both in our bigger town centres and all the little local shopping areas that local people value so much.
“It will really help the sort of specialist small shops which help to make town centres different and attract extra visitors.
“This extra help will give them a better chance to compete with some of the big players in town centres.
“Usually we can’t do much about the cost of business rates because central government sets the valuations, sets the rates we have to charge.
“They then take half of it off us once we’ve done all the work collecting it.
“We’re grabbing this opportunity with both hands as it gives us an extra direct way of supporting our local small businesses, and we look forward to it helping them, alongside the many other ways we support them.”