An Otley and Yeadon councillor has hailed a decision by Leeds City Council to expand the business rate relief scheme – but criticised the authority for not acting sooner.

Councillor Ryk Downes (Lib Dem, Otley and Yeadon) first called for the move, meant to support new traders and help bring empty shops back into use, a year and a half ago.

But his proposal to expand the local rate discount scheme so that it would include empty commercial buildings was voted down by Labour councillors in Leeds last September.

Next month, however, the city council’s executive board looks set to approve a very similar-looking change in policy.

Coun Downes said: “I am extremely pleased this issue is now up for debate, but why couldn’t they do this 18 months ago when I first proposed it?

“It is so important to help businesses that are just starting up, allowing them the time and space to establish themselves instead of worrying how to afford the tax levied.

“I have seen the struggling shop parades in my own ward of Otley and Yeadon with empty units which could have been filled so much sooner.

“We all know the benefits that thriving local high streets bring to their communities.”

Recent government reforms mean councils can use business rate relief schemes, which used to be restricted to charities and non-profit organisations, more widely.