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Welsh councils agree deal with Debenhams to secure future

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Swansea and Newport Council has agreed a deal with department store Debenhams to help secure its long-term future in those cities.

Unlike most city centre shops, Debenhams is not covered by the new Welsh Government retail, leisure and hospitality rate relief scheme.

The decision will enable Debenhams to continue discussions with the Welsh Government which could reduce its liability and enable Debenhams to access the Covid-19 retail rates relief support scheme in line with other retailers. The company has also been advised to apply to the Economic Resilience Fund.

Mark Gifford, Chairman of Debenhams, said: “I have been overwhelmed by the help and support offered by Swansea Council and the personal contribution made by the Chief Executive and Leader of the Council in helping Debenhams re-open in Swansea.

“I will make sure that Swansea will be one of the Debenhams stores included in the first wave of our re-opening programme, and with the support of the Council and our landlord, our Swansea store has a strong future.”

The Debenhams store in Swansea is located in the centre of the Quadrant shopping centre, occupying a significant proportion of floor area and acting as the core anchor tenant to the centre.

Photo credit: Completely Retail

Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council, said: “The Coronavirus crisis is placing massive pressures on business of all shapes and sizes.

“We are assisting thousands of businesses and we have already distributed more than £43 million in support to help businesses through these unprecedented times.

“Unfortunately, Debenhams’ Swansea store does not qualify for this funding so we have been in discussions with the company and the Welsh Government to ensure Debenhams has a long-term future in our city centre.

“The best way we can do this within current regulations is to defer their business rates until the end of the year which gives the company time to have further discussions with the Government over available support.

“Debenhams is vitally important to the future of our city centre. The store is an anchor and attracts many people into Swansea. We will do everything we can to ensure Debenhams plays a massive role in our plans to regenerate the city centre and help our economy recover from this crisis.”

Council leader Councillor Jane Mudd and senior officers have had constructive discussions with Debenhams this week in the relation to the company’s concerns about business rates.

Councillor Mudd said: “We have been working behind the scenes to find a solution to assist this key city centre store through this difficult trading period.

“Over recent weeks the council has distributed around £45 million to more than 2,000 businesses to help support them during this emergency.”

“As a council, we have sought to reinvigorate the city centre through a comprehensive regeneration programme and developing a mix of uses.

“However, our retailers, both large and small, are a vital component of a vibrant city centre and I value all of them.

“The Covid-19 crisis has followed the recession and against a backdrop of increasing online shopping.

“But we know people still like to visit stores and shopping local is going to be an even more important message from now on.

“Following consultation with senior colleagues and officers, I have, therefore, agreed that we should use our powers to defer Debenhams’ business rates until later on in the year while they conclude their current rating appeal. I very much hope that this will help them during this difficult time and they will remain in Newport to serve their loyal and new customers.”