A 5% cut in business rates to compensate Helensburgh traders hit by the CHORD project disruption has been attacked as ‘a slap in the face’ by local MSP Jackie Baillie.
But the decision has been defended by Argyll and Bute Council, saying disruption was inevitable and the £6.6m work would deliver long term benefits.
The authority’s valuation board offered the business rates cut, for May to November last year, to some retailers in West Clyde Street, which was badly affected last year when roadworks went on for several weeks longer than scheduled.
The assessor will make a similar offer to businesses affected by the second phase of the project, which covers areas including Colquhoun Square and West Princes Street.
But Ms Baillie, MSP for the Dumbarton constituency, said the offer was ‘derisory’ and did not reflect the fall in turnover at shops.
“Shops on the seafront have seen sales plummet due to Argyll and Bute Council’s decision to dig up the roads, narrow the pavement and restrict parking all throughout the busy summer tourist period,” she said.
“It’s simply not good enough and if the council wants these businesses to survive then it must do something to compensate them for the loss of trade.
“The future of some local shops is hanging by a thread.
“We need to get the money out now so if the council can’t offer compensation through a rates rebate then it must use its other funds.
“What’s the benefit of making the town centre look better if there are no shops left to fill it?”
In response, a council spokesperson said Helensburgh had ‘huge potential and a lot to offer’.
She added: “It is very clear that local people and businesses care passionately about their town.
“This passion, combined with our £6.6m investment in high quality public realm works, will deliver long-lasting benefits.
“This kind of investment is vital given the challenging economic climate that everyone is tackling today.”
Practical measures taken to support the town traders were also listed by the council:
- Additional free parking
- The Shopfronts Scheme, with £140,000 available because of deal involving the town’s new Waitrose store
- Nearly £18,000 worth of support for summer events organised by Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber of Commerce.
The spokesperson added: ““We will continue our dialogue with businesses locally, monitoring the impact of the works, and will consider our position in terms of offering further assistance that would be suitable to support any businesses in hardship.
“Once all the regeneration work is complete, Helensburgh will be an even more desirable destination, with its diverse range of local shops and attractive public spaces for people to enjoy.
“We have every confidence that this major investment in the town, combined with the drive and determination of the community, is going to bring significant benefits for everyone.”