Struggling indepedent shops could receive a cash life-line thanks to a government funding boost.

Epping Forest District Council has the power to cut up to £1.5m from small high street retailers' rates.

If the shop's rateable value is below £51,000 they qualify for a one-third discount on their business rates bills.

The scheme starts in 2019/20 and runs through to 2020/21.

Cabinet member for customer services, Councillor Helen Kane, said: “We welcome this new policy because we recognise that changing consumer behaviour presents a significant challenge for retailers in our town centres.

"The discount is one-third of the rates bill after all other reliefs have been applied.

"Advice from Government is that all retailers that meet the qualifying criteria will receive the relief.”

Shops such as florists, bakers, stationers, off licences, opticians, markets, garden centres and many more are among the businesses that could benefit as long as their rateable value is below £51,000.

There is no relief available under this policy for properties with a higher rateable value.

Business such as banks, estate agents, vets, dentists, doctors, solicitors, accountants, insurance agents and Post office sorting offices do not qualify.

The news is likely to be welcomed by small business owners struggling to make ends meet in increasingly hostile retail environment.

A council commissioned report into the economic environment on The Broadway in Debden found a six to seven per cent reduction in trade in a year.