Local Business Catch-up
I was pleased to have a catch-up with some businesses in Llandudno last Friday when we were all able to have a sigh of relief that Debenhams had not included Llandudno on the list of 22 store closures that they announced that morning. Whilst it’s been apparent in the news for a while that Debenhams has been struggling I think it’s clear that such Department Stores are important to the continued success of Llandudno as a retail centre.
The struggles of many independent retailers and hoteliers who work all hours to ensure the viability of their businesses can be contrasted with the time delays faced by many who have opted to appeal their business rates decision. I am unaware of any local businesses who are happy with their rates bill, not least since they compare the inflexible way they are taxed, whether local pub, restaurant, hotel or shop to the way in which some large on-line retailers seem able to bend the rules in their favour with impunity.
However, a practical concern raised with me was the way an appeal, when lodged with the Valuation Office, still takes so much time to resolve. This is simply not good enough especially since the affected business continues to pay rates at the higher rate before any appeal is heard. I have now seen so many examples of these appeals taking 18 months that it is clearly the norm for the Valuation Office. Suffice to say such delays are not acceptable and whilst many aspects of business rates are devolved the manning levels at the Valuation office is something I will be taking up at Westminster. Small businesses are crucial to the diversity and the success of towns such as Llandudno, Conwy, Llanrwst and Betws y Coed and when they appeal against ridiculous increases in their rates bill the least they deserve is a prompt and efficient response.
The good news from last Friday was the positivity with which the late Easter break was described. Yes, the weather was good but the view of businesses I spoke to was that the start of the summer season had gone well. For the sake of our local prosperity let’s hope we have a long and sunny summer!
St. David’s Hospice
I often refer to local charities in my columns, not least St. David’s Hospice which I know is an institution which is held in high regard by local people. It’s therefore fitting to highlight that this year is the 20th anniversary of the Hospice and such a key date should be a time for reflection on what has been achieved. The vision of those who founded the Hospice must have been met fully by the fantastic team effort over the years and the way in which St. David’s is now a full part of the cancer care system in North west Wales is a testament to what has been achieved.
When I was first elected nine years ago the then Prime Minister, David Cameron was much ridiculed for his talk of the Big Society. Whether that was fair or not is not the issue. What is apparent to me is that the way in which communities throughout the Aberconwy constituency and further afield support St. David’s is, in my view, one of the most inspiring examples of community-based action delivering for the common good. If that is not The Big Society, then I’m not sure what is.