Rates hikes could be final straw

Comment by Gillian McKenzie

Talk about kicking the trade when it’s down…
As the draft rateable values which will determine Scotland’s business rates for at least the next five years were released by the assessors, some of the increases for licensed trade businesses that emerged simply beggar belief.  A Glasgow pub has seen its rateable value rocket by 232%, an Aberdeen hotel is up 137% and a bar in Forfar is facing a 155% hike.
Increases of this magnitude are outrageous.
Of course licensees can appeal when the new RVs take effect on April 1, but not before they have paid the new rate.
And a higher RV doesn’t just mean a hike in rates bills.
Rateable values underpin a raft of other costs for the trade, including licence fees and TV subscriptions.
The increased RVs also come at a time when many operators are reeling from the additional costs associated with the national living wage and auto-enrolment pension scheme, not to mention ongoing tough trading conditions and the uncertainty Brexit brings.
If these rates hikes go unchallenged they could be the final straw for many.
Something has got to give.
As I have said in this column many times, government must look at the bigger picture. If this trade continues to have the life squeezed out of it there will be far fewer pubs, restaurants and hotels that are so vital to Scottish tourism and the wider economy; for those that do survive, many will have little option but to cut back, with investment and staff levels likely to be affected and falling standards almost inevitable.
The powers that be absolutely must take action, and quickly.