CUTTING business rates could help stop more shops in Wales from closing, a Gwent AM has said.

Speaking in the Assembly this week South Wales East AM Mohammad Asghar said more should be done to help support Wales' struggling retail sector - and cutting business rates may be a way to do this.

Addressing finance secretary Mark Drakeford, the Conservative AM said: "Welsh retailers already pay a quarter of all Welsh business rates, and it is becoming increasingly expensive to operate from property.

"The Welsh Retail Consortium has projected that over a fifth of shops could be lost as the next decade progresses.

"The chancellor of the exchequer, in his recent autumn budget, made money available to cut business rates for retailers with a rateable value of under £51,000, reducing their bills by a third for two years.

"Will the cabinet secretary consider introducing a similar measure to support the Welsh retail industry and reverse the trend in shop closures on our high streets and all over Wales?

Mr Drakeford replied such a scheme was already in place in Wales, although he added he hoped some of the extra money from the UK Government could be used to “make it more generous”.

“We don't need to mirror what is going on in England, because we already have a high street relief scheme here in Wales, which they don't have in England,” he said.

“We introduced it the year before last in discussion with the leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price, where we agreed on the joint parameters of the high street relief scheme in Wales.

“We've continued it this year.”