Think Rugby is full of empty shops? It's doing better than the average English high street

Rugby is projected to do better than many towns across England and Wales in terms of money lost because of empty retail units for the tax year 2019-2020.

Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 4:16 pm
Updated Wednesday, 22nd January 2020, 4:26 pm
File image.

Empty shops, offices and warehouses do not have to pay business rates for three months.

The aim of the tax relief is to allow for property investment and give landlords time to find a new occupant.

However, the cost to the taxpayer of empty business units has now risen to more than £1bn a year across England and Wales.

In Rugby, this tax relief is projected to mean the council misses out on around £1.5m – 1.84 per cent of its total projected business rates income of £52.6m.

This is the result of 204 of the area’s 3,080 units being empty.

The 1.84 per cent loss is better than the 2.16 per cent projected average for areas across England and Wales.

The date came from a nationwide investigation conducted by BBC Local News Partnerships.

Cllr Seb Lowe, leader of Rugby Borough Council, said: “The difficulties facing town centres, and the retail sector in general, are well-known, and these figures show that Rugby town centre is doing better than average for town centres countrywide.

“We do not set business rates or rents in the town centre and these issues will need to be addressed by the Government.

“Rugby Borough Council is however using its planning policies to support a greater focus on inward investment, leisure and town centre


Dominic Curran, property advisor at the British Retail Consortium, said: “It has been a challenging year for many retailers, as many shops struggle to adapt to rising cost pressures and changing consumer habits.

“High among the concerns for retail firms is business rates – a tax which disproportionately harms retailers, driving shop closures and job losses, leaving empty shopfronts and harming local communities.

“It is essential that the Government makes good on its pledge to reform this broken tax system.”

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s Resources Board, said: “Business rates are an extremely important source of income for local government and with an overall funding gap of £8 billion by 2025, the Government must commit to moving forward with vital reforms, which include addressing business rates avoidance and the impact of reliefs, such as empty premises relief."