FOR Cardiff, the Welsh capital’s Business Improvement District (BID), has appointed Carolyn Brownell as executive director, making Cardiff the first – and only – female-led BID of any Welsh city.

Working with FOR Cardiff since its inception in 2017, Carolyn has been in-post as interim executive director since March 2023 and has championed equality and safety for all Cardiffians within her mandate – making it a great place to work, live, and visit. 

In her year serving as interim executive director, Carolyn has championed all women in Cardiff through launching a range of support programmes for women. From pioneering the Welsh-language Ask for Angela scheme to founding the Women’s Safety Charter, to mentoring women in business, she has worked to ensure that Cardiff provides the best possible support for all its residents.

Carolyn said: “Equality and safety for all, but especially women, is one of my highest priorities. Cardiff is already a fantastic place to work, live, and play – my mission now is to make sure that all women within the city feel safe and seen, at all times, at all levels.

“On a wider scale, I’m keen to see Cardiff get the credit it deserves as a capital city. Cardiff’s humility is part of its charm, but the city is just as deserving of a seat at the global table as Paris, Rome, or London – we need some capital city confidence.”

In a recent open letter to the Minister for Finance, Carolyn Brownell highlights the looming issue of business rates for high street businesses. This reduction intensifies financial strain, especially in Cardiff where rateable values are higher.

While FOR Cardiff appreciates the recent £20 million capital fund announcement for high street businesses’ futureproofing, they emphasise that without business rates support, many businesses will struggle to survive. They suggest diverting some of the funding to councils to provide targeted business rates relief based on local needs, advocating for a more gradual tapering back to full payment.

FOR Cardiff urges the Welsh Government to reconsider their current approach to business rates relief in the following letter, advocating for measures that ensure stronger futures for high streets, particularly in the capital city centre.

“Dear Ms Evans,

Congratulations on your return to the cabinet and your expanded remit in the new government. The formation of the new cabinet provides a key opportunity to press the Welsh Government to reconsider its position on cutting business rates relief for retail and hospitality operators.

As you will be aware, this relief is scheduled to be cut from 75% to 40% in the new tax year, a decision which is at odds with the position in England where operators will continue to benefit from relief. Welsh Government have instead developed a £20million future-proofing fund for businesses in this sector to secure their futures with capital investment. Whilst this is a welcome investment, capital improvements offer long-term advantages that are difficult to realise for businesses under such enormous short-term pressures. It is our belief that part of this funding should be diverted to local authorities who will be able to use their local knowledge and discretion to divert further business rates support to the areas of greatest need. 

Whilst we appreciate the enormous financial pressures the Welsh Government currently faces, the decision to cut the existing relief so drastically is already resulting in business closures and further damage to already-suffering high streets. This damage will only be exacerbated when the cut in relief comes into force and will have further ramifications across the foundational economy. 

This decision is likely to disproportionately impact businesses in Cardiff Central, the constituency broadly aligned to the FOR Cardiff BID area. The nature of business rates means these operators are less likely to qualify for more generalized small business rates relief than their counterparts in other areas of Wales. The response from Welsh Government on this issue is that due to the system of reliefs in place ‘almost half of ratepayers…do not pay rates at all’. This may be true across Wales as a whole and is symptomatic of wider issues with business rates – which we appreciate Welsh Government are working to address – but it is certainly not true in Cardiff Central, where rateable values are higher. 

The decision to cut business rates relief has come from a sensible position of attempting to ensure that the businesses who can now afford to pay their full liability do start to do so once again. Unfortunately, the knock-on impacts for small businesses, operating on smaller margins and with the disproportionate costs associated with the outdated format of business rates, are significant. We have already lost many much-loved Cardiff businesses in the first quarter of 2024 alone in association with this relief cut, and it is our firm belief that if the cut goes ahead we will lose more. 

As we are sure you are aware our beliefs on this issue are mirrored across the retail, leisure, and hospitality sectors and we would urge you to please reconsider this approach. 

Yours faithfully,

Carolyn Brownell 

FOR Cardiff Executive Director”

Author WCS

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