BREAKING: Victory in Star’s High Street fight with business rates review

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The Star is today hailing victory in our fight to save the High Street after the Chancellor announced a review of crippling business rates in the Autumn Statement.

The announcement will lead to a root and branch review by the Treasury starting “imminently”.

A Treasury spokesman said would be the first of its kind since 1988.

The Star, and hundreds of Johnston Press sister titles, had campaigned for urgent reform and a freeze in rates while it was conducted. More than 5,000 people signed our petition.

The Chancellor also announced an increase in the discount small retailers can claim, from £1,000 to £1,500 and a two per cent cap business rate increases.

That adds up to a CUT of £352-a-year for the average shop, according to business expert Paul Mitchell Turner.

He added: “Your campaign has shown the effect of rates on local business. And it has been heard at the doors of Westminster. You have highlighted the concerns of local people.”

Hendrika Stephens, chair of Sheffield Antiques Quarter and gallery owner, said: “What The Star has done is fantastic because business rates are a big barrier in Sheffield.

“These are the businesses that are going to contribute to the local economy so if they don’t have any support in the early stages they won’t get off the ground.”

George Osborne also announced 100 per cent business rates relief for the smallest properties would last for another year until March 2016.

Ashley Highfield, the chief executive of Johnston Press, parent company of The Star, said: “It’s clear from the number of people that have signed our petition the depth of feeling and support there is for small businesses up and down the country.

“Local businesses drive the local economy and when that happens communities then thrive. These are the sorts of issues which are going to be of critical importance in the run up to the elections next year - and decision makers need to start listening.”

Sheffield business owners and leaders have welcomed the rates discount increase but questioned if there would be a permanent impact.

Business owner Jez Daughtry started the Sheffield Honey Company in 2010, after he was made redundant as a professional services manager at the height of the recession.

He said: “I think it is steady as we go.

“In terms of the rates, for small businesses it is good news because things like that do affect you when you go into business and are looking for opportunites.”

Richard Wright, executive director of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said it was a broadly positive statement - also welcoming the announcement of tendering for Northern Rail and Trans-Pennine Express franchises to replace pacer carriages with modern trains.

He said it was key to improve connections between northern cities such as Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.

There will also be a new fund to create a Northern Powerhouse funded by revenues for shale gas, which could see improvements in transport linking Sheffield to other major Northern cities.

Mr Wright added: “A review of business rates has been long needed, we’ve never argued for business rates because the chancellor has got to get his tax receipts from somewhere but it is very outdated.”

In the Commons started his statement by saying the UK was the fastest growing economy in the G7, with thre e per cent growth forecast next year.

He boasted that 500,000 new jobs had been created this year.

But Mr Wright added: “We still have too many people not in work and our economy still does not have enough skilled jobs.”

A note of political caution was also sounded by Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, skills and development at Sheffield Council.

He said: “With an election coming up we would expect the Chancellor to announce a crowd pleasing policy but it is really important we don’t let this overshadow the difficulties facing businesses, communities and families because people are really struggling.

“The Government has done some terrible things to the high street - all the help they can give businesses would be welcome but it is whether these policies are concrete rather than empty.”