'Do more to attract business'

With dozens of shops standing empty in Wellingborough's town centre, business owners say the council should slash business rates and stop carrying out long-term roadworks to promote trade.

But council representatives say work is being carried out to entice businesses to open in the 37 units which currently stand empty in the town.

A council spokesman said: "We have 37 commercial units vacant – re-letting is a council priority and we are working very hard to achieve it.

"There are new lettings every month, but we aren't yet gaining as much ground as we would like as the effects of the recession make businesses very cautious."

But the vast majority of small business owners believe more can be done to keep shops open and attract new businesses to open.

Gavin James, owner of J & D Mobility Services in Pebble Lane said: "We

are an established business and we notice the costs – our rates are 6,500 a year or thereabouts and you can imagine the amount we have to clear to make it worth while. Any new or small business would struggle.

"The 28 weeks roadworks in Market Street is no help at all –

especially for shops like us which cater for disabled people.

"We have heard of shoppers who plan to go to Milton Keynes once the roadworks start.

"I don't think that the council pay enough attention to the small businesses."

Julia Dawson from George Alan outdoor and leisure in Market Street said: "Small new businesses would have no hope to pay the rates – there should be an introductory offer and ongoing support.

But Lawrence Hawes of Lawrence's jewellery in Market Street believes the council is doing better than Kettering or Rushden.

He said: "I take advantage of the reduced business rates and I am given

a lot of support and advice from the council.

"There is only so much they can do."