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A BUSINESS rates lifeline for the retail, leisure and hospitality sector in Swansea has been approved.

All eligible businesses will pay no business rates in 2020-21.

The package of support is estimated at £35 million and is aimed at premises like shops, pubs, restaurants, gyms, theatres and hotels which have been on life support since the coronavirus lockdown.

Local authorities in Wales will have some flexibility in defining which businesses should be eligible.

The scheme excludes premises with a rateable value of more than £500,000, and it is expected that retailers with a rateable value of £6,000 and under will receive separate help under a small business rates relief initiative.

The Welsh Government is funding the new scheme, although a report before Swansea Council’s cabinet said it wasn’t certain that any amount of relief handed out in excess of the initial sum requested from ministers would be reimbursed.

Speaking at a cabinet meeting on June 18, Swansea’s chief finance officer Ben Smith said he was “perfectly happy” with the risks.

He thanked his colleagues for their hard work in administering various support grants in recent weeks, and said business rates officers were never usually this popular.

Council leader Rob Stewart said Government grants and rates relief were proving invaluable for businesses.

“Those are businesses which may have a good chance of surviving the pandemic, which otherwise might not,” he said.

Last month the Swansea Labour administration agreed to defer business rates with Debenhams for its Quadrant Shopping Centre anchor store, which didn’t qualify for a Wales-wide scheme because of its high rateable value.

Earlier, Swansea Liberal Democrats had launched a petition urging the Welsh Government to change the eligibility criteria, saying Debenhams was vital for the city.

Speaking at the cabinet meeting, Cllr Robert Francis-Davies said Mr Smith and his team had done “an absolutely tremendous job”.

He added: “It’s not very often that people are happy with their rates department.

“It’s made the difference to many businesses surviving or not.”

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