SMALL businesses in the Malvern Hills district are to get a cut in their business rates, district councillors decided this week.

Members of the district council's executive committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the discretionary business rate relief announced by the government last year.

The breaks mean relief of up to £1,000 for shops with a rateable value of £50,000 or less in 2014/5 and 2015/6. And new occupiers of shops that have been empty more than a year will get 50 per cent rate relief for 18 months.

The council's head of resources Andy Baldwin said the costs of the rate relief will be reimbursed tom the council, and so there will be no effect on its budget.

Coun Phil Grove, the portfolio holder for economic development, said: "In the current climate, any help that we can give to our small businesses will be very welcome.

The news has been welcomed by Anna Brook of Great Malvern Association of Traders, who said: "Obviously it's good news; any cuts in rates are always welcome.

"It's fantastic that government recognise that small businesses are finding the rates a real burden.

"A cut like this means that businesses such as ours may be able to employ an extra Saturday assistant, or something like that.

"However, much more significant is the need for the government to look at the imbalance between online and High Street traders. A business run from someone's kitchen table, or a rural outbuilding pays less, very significantly less, than people like us with town centre shop premises and all the overheads we have . This is something for central government to address."