A north-east business body leader has urged the Scottish Government to bring forward the next business rates revaluation- warning that the survival of firms “depends on it”.
Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said the next assessment needs to be made in line with the rest of the UK in 2021 rather than the planned Scottish date of 2022.
The 2017 revaluation was controversial with some firms facing crippling rateable value (RV) hikes of up to 250%.
They proved particularly contentious in the north-east because they are based on 2015 property values, taken before the full effects of the oil downturn were felt.
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Eventually finance secretary Derek Mackay introduced a number of caps on spiralling rates bills- including a 12.5% limit in the hard-pressed hospitality and office sectors.
The Scottish Government has since said that a move to accelerate revaluation would be a mistake.
But concerns remain that many businesses may struggle to survive unless it is willing to think again or take further action.
A meeting with north-east business leaders and local politicians was held this month at the Marcliffe Hotel in Aberdeen.
Mr Borthwick was among those present and said: “The chamber has consistently argued that the timing of the prior business rates revaluation disproportionately affected firms across Aberdeen City and Shire, failing to reflect the global oil and gas downturn and its material impact on firms in the north-east.
“The Scottish Government needs to go beyond current plans for reforms and accelerate the timetable for delivery.
“The survival of many businesses in our region depends on it.”
Aberdeen South MP Ross Thomson said: “It was clear from the meeting that there is still a sense of anger and frustration among local business people in Aberdeen around business rates.
“The Scottish finance secretary should follow the lead of the UK Chancellor and bring forward the tone date.”
Aberdeen council co-leader Douglas Lumsden, who also attended the meeting, added: “It will obviously require some legislation to be fast tracked through the Scottish Parliament, but similar action has been taken before, so it could be taken again.”
The Scottish Government has indicated that their support schemes top £730 million, including a year of relief for new and improved properties
A government spokeswoman said: “We accepted the independent Barclay Review’s recommendation that there should be three yearly revaluations from 2022, with valuations based on market conditions on a date one year prior.
“Any revaluation ahead of 2022 would not allow full implementation of these reforms to improve data collection, improve the appeals system or allow for the majority of appeals against 2017 revaluation to be settled.”