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Moray Council’s business rates IT quagmire finally solved

Moray Council leader George Alexander assumed office yesterday.
Moray Council leader George Alexander assumed office yesterday.

Moray Council has resolved IT problems which left traders paying over the odds on their business rates.

The local authority had been unable to cap rises in hospitality industry bills, because it lacked the necessary software.

Some hotels and pubs paid out more than 10 times what they should have in April and May because of the delay.

Furious Moray traders left footing extortionate bills after IT fiasco

Following furious complaints last month, the council suspended the June payments of those who had been worst hit.

And yesterday, almost five months after Holyrood finance bosses announced a cap on rises at 12.5% for the hospitality sector, the council announced the situation was in hand.

A spokesman confirmed that businesses which had applied for relief on their non-domestic rates are now paying the reduced sums they should have been and will be refunded any overpayments.

He added that it had “taken just two weeks” for accountants to test the required software and begin processing relief applications, after receiving it.

Local authority leader, George Alexander, welcomed the development and stressed that the long wait was not the council’s fault as IT providers struggled to meet demand.

The Forres representative suggested that adversely affected firms should now focus on appealing for their rate increases to be reviewed.

Councillor Alexander said: “Traders have to get their appeals in as quickly as possible, or it’s all too likely they will be hit with these stomach-churning increases.”

There were howls of protest earlier this year, when the reality of the Scottish Government’s plans to increase the tax sunk in.

The move would have sent some Moray firms’ rates soaring by more than 200% – sparking job fears and furious complaints.

Amid the backlash, Holyrood finance bosses announced a transitional relief scheme which capped rises for the hospitality sector.

Embattled traders are now fighting to have the rateable value of their premises re-evaluated ahead of next April.

Graham Fleming has seen the value of Lossiemouth’s Beach Bar increase by 216% following an assessment based upon his turnover last year.

His bills are poised to rocket from £13,500 to £42,000 in 2018.

Applications for the transitional relief scheme are still being accepted by the council.

Full details of the scheme, including an application form, can be found on Moray Council’s website.