Move backed by MSPs

Retailers dismay over move to give councils rates power

Multrees Walk, shop, retail, Edinburgh

Shops are under pressure from rising costs (pic: Terry Murden)

Retailers have expressed dismay over moves to give local authorities greater powers over business rates.

They fear that businesses will treated as “cash cows” to help fund local projects.

Opposition MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s Local Government Committee combined to vote through the change included in the Non-Domestic Rates Bill.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said rates bills have already been on the rise, increasing by £13.2 million this spring.

“Retailers stump up over a fifth of all rates paid, and with shops under enormous pressure action is needed to reduce rates bills which are now at a 20-year high,” he said.

“However, allowing each of Scotland’s 32 councils to set the poundage rate in their area is an alarming and retrograde step, and flies in the face of the Bill’s aims and the thrust of the rates reform agenda.

“Councils are already able to reduce business rates in their area, but only three have ever bothered to do so. Handing councils control over the poundage rate could lead to firms being treated like cash cows, pushing business rates up even higher and further hitting competitiveness.”

Stuart Mackinnon, the Federation of Small Businesses’ external affairs manager for Scotland, said: “Across Scotland, small businesses will be alarmed to hear that nationwide rate relief for smaller operators is under threat.

“This Bill is supposed to be looking at new ways to make the rates system more user friendly and introduce more frequent revaluations. Instead, we see a policy adopted which could costs businesses far more than the tourism tax or the workplace parking levy. At the earliest opportunity parliamentarians must put this significant Bill back on track.”

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