Campaign for rates overhaul continues

Publication of Non-Domestic Rates Bill welcomed by groups

Many licensed premises were hit with exorbitant increases in rates bills

MEASURES to implement more frequent rates revaluations have been welcomed by trade groups – but the organisations have pledged to continue their campaign to have the methodology used to calculate business rates completely overhauled.

The Non-Domestic Rates Bill, introduced by finance secretary Derek Mackay last week, outlines a number of proposals put forward by the Barclay group in August 2017, following its year-long review of business rates in Scotland, including a move from five-yearly to three-yearly revaluations from the next revaluation year in 2022 and a requirement for assessors to include more information relating to the rateable value on valuation notices.

The proposals in the Bill, which will now go before the Scottish Parliament, come as many operators are facing fresh hikes in rates bills after the Uniform Business Rate increased on April 1, and the 14.75% real terms cap – introduced by Mackay in 2017 after many hospitality businesses faced exorbitant increases in rates, and extended until 2022 – is applied to the previous year’s bill.

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Willie Macleod, executive director for Scotland at UK Hospitality, said the campaign for reform of the methodology continues.

“We welcome the broad contents of the Bill,” he said.

“A move to more frequent revaluations will allow the vagaries of the trade to be reflected. And we continue to welcome the cap. While it becomes of diminishing value because of inflation it does give some relief to a significant number of businesses.

“But we continue to think the methodology is obscure and uncompetitive compared to other sectors; and we continue to develop a case for change to present to the Scottish assessors and the Scottish Government.”

Paul Waterson of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association agreed.

“A move to three-year revaluations is welcome for obvious reasons,” he said. “But we’re continuing to push on for full reform of the system.”

Meanwhile, operators are being invited to attend a meeting of a new business rates reform campaign group in Glasgow later this month.

Fair Rates For All, which was set up by restaurateur Seumas MacInnes of Café Gandolfi, will meet at 10.30am on Tuesday April 16 at Metropolitan on Candleriggs.