There was some good news on Business Rates this week which, whilst not solving the problem of increasingly high rates which are making life difficult for some existing traders in our high streets, will hopefully help some to set up new businesses.
In an oral Statement to the Assembly Minister for Economy, Science & Transport Edwina Hart announced two new measures. New developments will be able to apply for an exemption from empty property rates for up to 18 months - it is hoped this will "stimulate construction and support new development across the country."
The second scheme aims to help bring long-term empty properties back into use by offering occupiers a 50% discount on their business rates for the first year. The aim is to provide an incentive to new businesses and help property owners fill their premises.
Whether this is anywhere near enough in a climate where retailers are battling against car park charges and increasing competition from out of town developments remains to be seen.
One further highly controversial suggestion has been put on the back burner by the Minister - the proposal that charity shops should not receive such high reductions in their rates. Currently they can claim up to 80% rate relief which is a bone of contention for many traders.
At a meeting in Pontypridd a few months ago traders from across RCT told us that they thought there were too many charity shops in our town centres, and their concern was that many were selling new goods and they were having to compete when the playing field was far from level. The FSB had expressed similar reservations.
Charities are of course opposed to any changes which affect them - and concern has been expressed by some people that even more shops will be left empty if charity shops leave the high street.
There is surely a balance to be struck