TOWN hall officials could be asked to give Debenhams a huge discount on its business rates to help secure the future of the struggling department store chain.

The lenders who have taken over the chain intend to ask 30 local authorities to throw a lifeline to stores by cutting their rates bills in half.

The proposal comes after a majority of Debenhams’ creditors approved a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) which would involve landlords cutting the rents on 105 stores.

Fifty of the 166 Debenhams stores are set to close, but Bournemouth’s is not among the 22 that have been named.

It is understood that Bournemouth’s Debenhams traded strongly last Christmas.

Earlier this week, the boss of Debenhams’ rival Beales told how the company pays £448,000 a year in business rates for its own Bournemouth store. Chief executive Tony Brown said business rates were a “national scandal”.

Helena Hudson, founder of independent chain the Real Eating Company – which has a cafe in Bournemouth – said: “I’m glad to hear that Debenham’s CVA plan was approved – it will help stem the general decline in city centre footfall as well as protecting jobs.

“But I sincerely hope that the council are not supporting this retail rescue with a discretionary 50 per cent reduction in business rates. We know that any revenue reduction in the council’s coffers will need to be found elsewhere – either through service cuts or increasing costs to business.

“This move would also seriously undermine business’s faith that there is any fairness in the collection of taxes, tipping the balance firmly in favour of the big and powerful.”

Bill Cotton, director of regeneration and economy BCP Council, said: “We are pleased to hear that the Debenham’s store in Bournemouth has not been earmarked for closure.

“We understand that the company has entered into a CVA with its creditors, however we have not received formal notification of this outcome. The Valuation Office, part of central government, determine the appropriate rating value for businesses to pay.”