“Chilling” cost of business rates rises to NHS

Jackie Baillie

The Scottish Government was warned last night to get a grip of the “business rates bombshell” amid “chilling evidence” about the cost to the NHS.

Scottish Labour has unearthed a joint submission by Scotland’s 22 health boards to the government’s consultation on possible transitional arrangements for the revaluation, which closed in October.

In it they advised the cost to the NHS across the country could be as much as £30million, putting pressure on “cash resources required for front line services”.

A revaluation of business rates is currently being carried out by the Scottish Assessors Association (SAA), with the changes due to take effect on April 1.

This precedes a Scottish Government review of the rates system, led by former RBS Scotland chairman Ken Barclay, which will report its findings in the summer.

Scottish Labour economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said the boards’ submission showed the impact of the changes would extend “far beyond the private sector to the public services that we all rely on”.

She added: “It’s time for the SNP to get a grip of this problem and come up with a solution that doesn’t penalise the public services.

“The SNP’s NHS business rates bombshell could put front line services at even greater risk than they are already.

“We have heard from a number of businesses which will be hit by the SNP’s business rates review, but this evidence from NHS boards themselves is chilling.”

The submission read: “As a significant public sector body, NHS Scotland, through its 22 health boards, has estimated that the potential increase in rates liability across our estate could be in the region of 20-30%.

“Without a system of transition, health boards in Scotland face a significant rise in business rates costs, at a conservative estimate exceeding £20million per annum but potentially in excess of £30million per annum.

“These increases will significantly pressurise cash resources required for front line services.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The NHS has worked closely with the SAA to understand the impact of the Rating Revaluation 2017 and this has been factored into the financial plans of all NHS boards.

“NHS funding is at record high levels and the health resource budget will increase by almost £2billion by the end of this parliament.

“From that increase NHS boards will manage the impact of these changes.”

He added that rating valuation is carried out by independent assessors rather than the Scottish Government.