BUSINESS rates are having a “devastating” impact on small businesses in North Wales, says an AM.

Speaking in the Welsh Conservative debate on business rate relief, Conservative AM Mark Isherwood said the Welsh business rates relief system has become the “least competitive in the UK”.

England offers transitional business rate relief and Northern Ireland cancelled its revaluation because of the unstable commercial property market, he said, stressing that as a result of rate revaluation in Wales, the average property valuation for business rates increased by almost 20 per cent in April.

Mr Isherwood spoke of a garage in Denbigh whose rateable value went up from £4,500 to £17,250 in the 2010 revaluation.

He also stressed that the Federation of Small Businesses in North Wales had been inundated with calls from members who had suffered huge rates increases.

“Its regional organiser stated that he had a call from a filling station owner who has also experienced a 100 per cent increase,” he said.

“There have been massive increases in particular sectors and areas.

“Even after changes in Wales from October 1 2010 resulting from UK Government actions, only Welsh businesses with a rateable value of up to £6,000 will receive 100 per cent relief.

“This compares with the Scottish rate relief system which gives 100 per cent relief to firms with rateable value up to £10,000.

“Tapered relief in Wales would only give 33 per cent relief to a business with a rateable value of £10,000.

“Welsh Conservatives propose to extend 100 per cent relief to businesses in Wales with a rateable value up to £10,000 and 20 per cent relief to businesses in Wales with a rateable value over £10,000 up to £15,000.”

Mr Isherwood stressed the proposal is fully costed.

“With Wales at the bottom of the economic league table and the gap widening, the primary aim of economic development policy should be to encourage wealth and employment across all parts of the nation, recognising that almost six out of 10 new jobs come from small and medium enterprises.

“Yet, there seems to be a real difficulty among the current set of governing politicians and policymakers within the Welsh Government to invest public money in supporting the real wealth creators within the economy, the small firm sector.

“As the poorest region in the UK, surely we should be maximising our support for Welsh businesses, not reducing it?”