TAG | Business Rates
Regional Liberal Democrat MSP, Alison McInnes, and I are supporting local businesses who are outraged at the Scottish Government for offering no respite to businesses whose rates have risen substantially.
Mrs McInnes commented:
”Despite the Liberal Democrats fighting for a fairer system for Scottish businesses the Government have refused to introduce transitional relief, the same relief that is on offer throughout England.
“The increase follows a countrywide revaluation programme and with no hope of a relief scheme, Angus businesses have found themselves being taxed an extra £2 million per year. This has been a hammer blow for many local businesses.
“Within Angus we have seen numerous hotels and garages having to budget for huge rates rises. This is sure to put Scottish businesses at a disadvantage.
“The SNP refused to consult, they refused to listen and now they must squarely take the blame for the extra burden they have placed on the shoulders of local businesses.”
In Aberdeenshire Council’s area, including the Mearns, the rise is £10.6m, a staggering 18% year on year. This is the second highest percentage increase across the country. The £2m rise for Angus alone is a 9% increase.
Having talked to shop owners and particularly hotel managers, the Business Rates rise has hit them hard, right in the middle of the recession. You only have to walk around the high streets in Angus and Mearns to see the closed shops and the impact that the rates rise can have.
We need a vibrant small business community to get the economy going again. The SNP government should help businesses create jobs, not make it harder for them to stay afloat.
Photo: Sanjay visting Daniel Paton, owner of the George Hotel, Montrose to discuss his 30% Business Rates increase
I visited Chris Banks owner of Highland Scene and Chair of the Montrose Business Association, as part of his fact finding tour of the small businesses across Montrose and the rest of Angus.
I heard from Chris about the effect the recession has had on which products are selling well, the impact of internet shopping and about the premium paid in business rates for shops to be on the High Street. I run my own small businesses and it is clear that Chris and Highland Scene have responded quickly to the recession by adapting the products he sells. When there are empty shop fronts across Scotland, it is great to see small, local, shops weathering the storm so well.
It was fascinating to hear how business rates can be as much as double from one end of the High Street to the other. Making a business succeed in the centre of the High Street can be extremely challenging for small, locally owned shops during a recession. Montrose and towns across Angus are blessed with varied high street shopping that is not dominated by national chains. We need to keep a careful watch to ensure that continues to be the case.
I am backing the Scottish Lib Dem campaign to get the SNP Government to support businesses and particularly hotels, facing huge increases in their businesses rates. Speaking to a debate on this issue at the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference, I highlighted the issues facing tourism during a year of celebrations across the whole of Angus.
Jeremy Purvis MSP, Lib Dem Shadow Secretary on Economic affairs, introduced a motion to press the Scottish Government to support hotels facing rises of up to 120% in the 2010 Business Rates revaluation. He called for the SNP to provide transitional relief, staggering increases over a number of years, in the same way as the previous Lib Dem / Labour Government had done whilst in power, and is standard practice across the rest of the UK.
In Angus, the recession is already hitting Scottish Hotels and Tourism. In February, a stately home, the Castleton House, near Glamis, closed its doors as a hotel.
This year, there are bicentenary celebrations for the Royal Montrose Golf Course and the Bell Rock Lighthouse as well as the 150th anniversary of J M Barrie’s birth in Kirriemuir. All of these celebrations have developed great relationships with local hotels and B&B’s. But already a lack of hotel beds in Angus limits how big their events can be and how much extra business they can bring to the local area.
I spoke to Fraser Ogston, the owner of two hotels in St Andrews, who will open a third in Arbroath in April. He had little idea of what his business rates will be, particularly with the rates revaluation. How can hotel owners plan their business without knowing what their taxes will be?
The issues with business rates go further than the hotel industry and transitional relief, however. In particular, business rates are discouraging investment to tackle climate change, as any savings made on energy bills are swallowed up in increased rates. I talked to a shipyard owner, Harry Simpson of Mackay Boat Builders, again in Arbroath, where they rebuilt a workshop building, with one with an insulated roof, motion sensitive lights and taps, and a better working environment for staff. With little warning their rates were doubled, not least because they were taken over the threshold for small business relief.
How can it make sense that a business that has added no new capacity, is no longer regarded as small, simply because they have replaced a building with a greener, safer one?