Local powers could help ease trade’s rates burden

Comment by Gillian McKenzie

Business rates are the bugbear of many operators in the Scottish on-trade.
From the way in which they are calculated – with pubs’ rateable values based on turnover while those for businesses in other sectors use rental value – to the fact that current rateable values are based on 2008 figures, when trading conditions were very different, the system is long overdue a complete overhaul, according to many in the trade.
The bad news is that the next non-domestic rates revaluation is not due to take place until 2017, after the Scottish Government postponed it from this year in line with the Westminster government.
However, earlier this month, came a glimmer of hope.
Speaking at the SNP conference in Aberdeen, deputy first minister John Swinney unveiled plans to give councils the power to reduce rates bills for businesses.
It means that from Saturday (October 31) councils across Scotland will be able to cut business rates based on criteria they choose, such as the type of property or its location.
The move will no doubt be welcomed by many operators.
Although it seems the measure won’t alter the rateable value of a licensed premises, upon which everything from the licence fee to televised sport subscriptions are based, it could result in reduced rates bills.
Of course it remains to be seen which – if any – local authorities do, in fact, cut non-domestic rates.
But it seems like a step in the right direction.