Aberdeenshire Council has set aside £3million which could be used to ease the burden of dramatic business rates increases across the region.
Some firms – particularly in the hospitality sector – are facing increases of more than 200% and entrepreneurs have warned businesses will close.
After relentless pressure from campaigners in the north-east, Finance Secretary Derek Mackay struck a deal to hand local authorities, including Aberdeenshire. improved settlements as a concession to businesses.
Now the local authority’s SNP-Labour Partnership administration has set aside £3million in an “enabling” fund which could be used to rescue struggling firms.
Speaking after yesterday’s budget debate, co-leader Richard Thomson said the cash could be used to “mitigate” the impact on certain businesses.
“We can’t alleviate the total increase and nor should we,” he said.
“There are a number of businesses on the roll who have invested significantly in their properties and should have expected higher bills as a result of that.
“What it can do is alleviate the burden for some businesses most acutely affected.”
But opposition leader Jim Gifford questioned how a £3million fund could make a difference to an overall rates bill of about £100million for the region.
He said: “It’s a very small sticking plaster on a very large problem.”
He added: “We took a completely different tack and said we would wait to see the details in writing of what the Scottish Government is going to give us before asking officers to bring us detailed a report of how to use that money in the best interests of everybody in Aberdeenshire.”
A report will be presented to full council in March with details of how the new businesses rates have affected Aberdeenshire.