THE chancellor’s bid to boost the high street has been welcomed by small retailers – but the boss of Beales says larger stores should have been given more help.

In his last pre-Brexit budget, Philip Hammond announced £675million to support local councils in “transforming” high streets.

He also pledged to reduce business rates for up to 90 per cent of shops and introduce a ‘digital services tax’ on the online giants.

Tony Brown, chief executive of the Bournemouth-based Beales chain, said: “Overall, a positive budget for growth, but I don’t think he’s gone anywhere near far enough on rate relief because the majority of people in retail are in big companies which are suffering the most.

“My rate bill for my business is £2.8m. That’s in a business that’s improving its losses but it’s still loss-making.

“Not giving rate relief for bigger businesses in the high street is wrong and short-sighted because if people like M&S, Debenhams and House of Fraser keep on closing big sites, then the smaller retailers cannot make up for that because they’re mainly ‘mom and pop stores’ – butchers, jewellers, small fashion shops. They can’t do what the big retailers do.”

Rate bills are to be cut by a third for shops with a rateable value of up to £51,000. The measure will last for two years until the next rates revaluation.

The digital services tax will be a two per cent levy on global online companies, including search engines, with global revenues of more than £500m a year.

Steve Taylor, of Fab Frocks in Westbourne, said the budget had delivered on “the hottest issues for small businesses”.

He added: “Rate relief that will apparently span 90 per cent of retailers and restaurants will bring a much needed boost to maintaining their presence on the high street. A fund for rejuvenation of high streets of £675m doesn’t sound like much but hopefully Bournemouth council will look to access this to help reverse the decline of our town centre. A poor centre impacts us all, including all the vital suburbs of Bournemouth.“With the unstoppable shift to online for everyday goods a digital tax aimed at specific digital businesses will start to balance the contribution made to the infrastructure within the UK to deliver our goods and services.”

John East-Rigby of Molly’s Den Antique Emporium, which has sites in Bournemouth and Christchurch, said: “Very pleased to see the chancellor is backing enterprise and encouraging wealth creation, by not changing the rate of entrepreneur’s relief. This gives extra incentive to our budding traders at Molly’s Den to start to build their businesses and grow them into successful enterprises.

“The business rates relief, cutting a third off rates if rateable value is £51.000 or less, will help make the high street a vibrant community filling the gaps left by failed national chains with vibrant individual businesses – something you can’t get online.”

The chancellor said the “era of austerity is coming to an end” – a rowing back from Theresa May’s comment that “austerity is over”. He pledged £2.7billion for the universal credit system and more spending on mental health, as well as higher personal tax allowances.

Paul Tansey, president of Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry, welcomed the moves to help shopping.

“This support will buy retailers vital time as they evolve to cope with huge changes in buyer behaviour,” said Mr Tansey, managing director of Poole-based marketing agency Intergage.

Dorset Chamber chief executive Ian Girling said there was “much to applaud” in the budget.

“Many businesses in Dorset will welcome measures to reduce the unnecessarily high burden of business rates on SMEs and moves to breathe fresh life into the high street,” he said.

“The increase in the annual investment allowance, reduction of the apprenticeship levy for small businesses from 10 per cent to five per cent, the freeze on fuel duty and money for pothole repairs are also very encouraging.

“However, we must fight to make sure that Dorset gets its fair share of any funding being made available, whether that is for the high street or for highway repairs”

He added: “This may be the last budget before Brexit, yet Dorset businesses will remain confident, focused and optimistic whatever the next 12 months bring.”

Neil Andrews, partner with Dorset solicitors Coles Miller, said: “It was a good budget for working people with plenty of support for independent businesses.

“We strongly welcome the pragmatic extra funding for the high street and the new tax on the global digital giants. It’s an important first step in levelling the playing field for the retail sector.”

Alex Simmons, partner with chartered accountants Saffery Champness in Bournemouth, said: “Any concerns about tax increases were soon allayed by the chancellor in his speech with continual emphasis on increased public spending being paid for increased growth in the economy.

“The increase in business investment allowance will be very welcome and hopefully should encourage more spending on capital projects. The chancellor was very coy about the impact of Brexit but did allude to a potential spring budget depending on the outcome of negotiations and a war chest available if needs be.”

Adam Rainey, regional director for the south west at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said:

“Businesses across the south west of England prioritised a freeze or cut to business rates and an increase in investment in transport infrastructure in our pre-budget survey, so they will broadly welcome the measures to address those issues that the chancellor announced today.

“The pledge to slash business rates for independent retailers could prove to be a lifeline for many stores in the region’s high streets, helping create a better environment for business growth and freeing up cash to invest in new opportunities.”