SMALL business owners have told how they will struggle to survive when higher rates are introduced next week.

Traders, who have been sent letters warning them of the £154 monthly price hike, have vented their frustration over mounting pressure on independent businesses.

Jim Haran, who co-owns Smiles and Tears Florist, in High Road, Benfleet, with his wife Mary, said: “As the high street gets quieter and the council stops putting money into it things are becoming tougher than they were – especially with internet shopping.

“Many nearby retailers are worried.

“We are told we will be supported by the council and the Government but we don’t see evidence of that, The High Street is being eroded away.”

The soaring rates, being introduced by the Government next Friday, come six months after a break-in at the shop ended up costs the couple £2,000 in repairs.

Grandfather Les Goldberg, 60, who owns Les’s Cycles, in Long Road, Canvey, told how the business rate hike has made it difficult for him to provide for his family.

Mr Goldberg said: “We will have to turnaround about £150 to make that extra money.

“I honestly feel like we have been forgotten and small traders are the backbone of a community.

“This is more misery ladled onto the High Street."

Traders across south Essex received letters about the increased business rates the same day as Chancellor George Osborne promised 600,000 small firms will not have to pay rates at all, while 250,000 will pay lower rates, from April 2017.