Wed, 08 Aug 2018
WEST Berkshire Council says a record number of businesses are now paying rates – but the number of empty properties has also increased.
The council said it currently has 5,704 business rated properties in the area, more than ever before.
The news could prove crucial to the council’s finances, as it successfully lobbied the Government to become part of a one-year business rate retention pilot.
West Berkshire Council executive member for economic development James Fredrickson (Con, Victoria) said: “This is yet more good news about West Berkshire’s local economy and the area’s desirability as a destination for business.
“We’re making sure we have everything that businesses need to thrive.
“Great digital connectivity, a strong economy and one of the best-qualified workforces in the country.
“When you factor-in the huge boost that we will receive from improvements to Heathrow Airport in the coming years, it is no surprise that West Berkshire is well on the way to establishing itself as the tech powerhouse of the South East.
“Once again, we are showing that West Berkshire is open for business.”
However, council documents show that while the number of properties subject to business rates are up, the amount of empty buildings has also increased.
The documents state that there are 187 more business properties since the end of June 2017, making a total of 5,546, but 96 additional properties are empty.
“The last two quarters reached levels higher than the quarterly values over the last two financial years (at 241, empty business properties Q4 result is 66 per cent higher than Q4 of last year),” the report says.
“The two measures of volume suggest that despite an increase in empty properties, the increase in registered properties subject to business rates is greater.”
The leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat opposition, Lee Dillon (Thatcham North), said: “An increase in registered businesses within the district is welcome news, as long as they are also offering job opportunities to local residents.
“New business is of course needed after the council lost one of our larger employers, Bayer, to neighbouring Reading, which could have been saved if we had a more proactive council.
“Whilst we are seeing new businesses emerge we must also do more to support existing local business, especially those in our town centres.
“Empty units in the Kennet Centre in Newbury and on the High Street in Thatcham show that the retail sector is facing a challenging time, which the council should be doing more to support.”