BUSINESS owners across the county are to be given financial support from the Welsh government’s business rates relief scheme.

Monmouthshire County Council has identified around 500 businesses eligible for the relief scheme and will partially reimburse those firms for the business rates they have already paid.

As reported in the Free Press last month, business owners in Chepstow are unhappy with Monmouthshire’s business rates, which were subject to some of the sharpest increases nationwide in the last 12 months, and fear the rates are contributing to the growing number of shop closures on high streets across the county.

The county council, which has opposed the Welsh government’s increases to business rates, appeared to welcome the news the relief scheme will provide some help to those businesses struggling to stay afloat.

Cllr Phil Murphy, Monmouthshire’s cabinet member for resources, said: “These are challenging times for our high streets and these rate relief schemes will potentially go some way towards giving businesses more security and viability.”

Cllr Bob Greenland, deputy leader and cabinet member for innovation, enterprise and leisure, said: “I am acutely aware of the pressure that the latest Welsh Government rate revaluation has put on many of our retail businesses.

“We lobbied hard to get relief for the most hard pressed and I am pleased that this money will go some way towards achieving that aim.”

Following the Free Press report on business rates in June, Geoffrey Sumner, chair of the Chepstow Society, appealed to town and county councillors, as well as his local AM and MP, to do whatever they could to prevent Chepstow becoming a “ghost town”.

“Our members are extremely concerned at the number of town centre businesses that are about to close, principally due to the huge increase in business rates that they face”, Mr Sumner said in a letter.

Chepstow was particularly vulnerable, Mr Sumner said, because of its proximity to the large Cribbs Causeway shopping complex, and the removal of Severn Bridge tolls would likely worsen the problem.

“We strongly urge you to take any steps that you can to alleviate the burden of business rates now being imposed on Chepstow businesses and preserve our town centre”, Mr Sumner wrote.