A NEW scheme designed to boost ailing town centres is expected to be approved by Test Valley Council’s Cabinet next week.

The scheme gives local councils the ability to chop business rates to companies moving into shop premises that have been vacant for more than a year.

It means that any business moving into a shop that has been empty for a year or more is now eligible for 50 per cent rate relief – potentially saving many thousands of pounds and increasing the success of any new business.

There are few restrictions on the scheme with only shops used for betting, pay day loans or pawnbrokers not included.

In his report, economic portfolio holder Peter Giddings said: “The council has been asked to provide an estimate of the likely total cost of providing the new relief for 2014/15.

“The Government will provide payment based on that estimate to the council over the course of the year.

“It is difficult to provide estimates however, as for 2014/15 the council has estimated that £170,000 of relief may be awarded within the borough, which could benefit 20 ratepayers.”

He adds that the scheme is a temporary measure and will create a certain amount of additional admin work.

It is unclear at the moment whether the cost of this extra work will be paid for by the Government.

Test Valley has a long history of promoting new business and has run its new business incentive grant scheme for many years.