Charity Retail Association puts together five-point plan for Welsh high streets

A response to Welsh government plans to cut business rate relief, the plan is intended as a compromise that would not 'punish and penalise charities unfairly'

Charity shops: could be hit hard by rate relief cut
Charity shops: could be hit hard by rate relief cut

The Charity Retail Association will send a five-point plan to all members of the Welsh assembly that it says would address concerns about the decline of Welsh high streets without "punishing and penalising" charities.

The move comes after the CRA brought together representatives of 19 charities and three opposition Welsh assembly members for an emergency meeting to discuss Welsh government proposals to cut business rate relief for charity shops.

Wendy Mitchell, head of policy and public affairs at the association, said the meeting, held yesterday at the Senedd in Cardiff Bay, went well.

"All the charities are very united in opposition to these proposals and the three assembly members were very supportive," she said. "They agreed that the evidence base was simply not there and were very sceptical about the proposals.

"We were really disappointed that the minister declined our invitation to the summit so we could speak to her directly."

Edwina Hart, the Welsh economy minister, launched a consultation in April that included proposals to cut the rate relief for all charity shops from 80 per cent to 50 per cent from 2022 and limit the number of charity shops in a given area.

The CRA said that if the proposals went ahead charities would lose nearly £2m next year, a cut in income of 15 per cent. It would create 80 empty shops and mean the loss of 130 paid jobs and 1,800 volunteer posts because one in seven charity shops in Wales would be forced to close, it said.

The charity Ty Hafan, which provides hospice care for children and young people, said the cuts would equate to caring for 13 children every year.

Mitchell said the CRA urged all it members to respond to the consultation, which closes on Friday.

"We are launching a five-point plan, which is a compromise that addresses some of the concerns about high streets but does not end up punishing and penalising charities unfairly," she said.

The five points include setting up a working party to explore ways in which local communities could gain more control over the shops in their high streets and involving charities in business improvement districts. It includes a proposal to monitor the average number of new goods being sold by charity shops and suggests an evidence base should be built to share best practice about the role and impact of charities on the high street.

Assembly members Nick Ramsay, shadow business minister for the Welsh Conservatives, Eluned Parrot, a Liberal Democrat, and Alun Ffred, a Plaid Cymru member, attended yesterday’s meeting. Parrot and Jones are both members of the Welsh assembly’s business and enterprise committee. Charities at the meeting included UK-wide and local Welsh organisations, such as the British Heart Foundation and Ty Hafan.

Jenna Pudelek

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