Business rates are back on the agenda at Fife Council, which has called for an urgent review and cohesive Fife-wide approach ahead of the Scottish Government’s reassessment process.
Deputy leader and spokesperson for economy and planning cllr Lesley Laird said: “The business rates system is long overdue for review, and is an additional challenge for town centres at a time of economic downturn. The current rates system is hampering economic growth within the Kingdom.
“I am disappointed that the recommendations from the Malcolm Fraser National Review of Town Centres report on rates and enterprise zones have not been implemented, as these would re-energise Fife’s town centres.”
Fife Council’s Economy and Planning Policy Group recommended that commercial rates should be the next major area of policy review following a meeting earlier this week.
The Council says it will be looking to work with Fife Economy Partnership, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and Fife Chamber of Commerce to develop a strong Fife response.
Laird added: “Business Rates are an issue that Fife firms repeatedly raise with me. The problem is that they are still set at pre-2008 levels, and this is a burden on businesses, particularly within our towns. Both the UK and Scottish Governments have postponed the scheduled review, and the Small Business Bonus Scheme has not really addressed this issue.
“If we want to support our town centres then we need to ensure that we have the full economic levers to help us do that. That means that our planning system needs to be much better aligned to place-making and economic outcomes, such as supporting town centres. We also need to recognise that the way people shop has changed with more and more people shopping on the internet. We need to look for more diverse uses of our town centre, including housing, and night time economy. This requires a reform of the planning system, sensible economic incentives and a business rating system that is fit for purpose.”
“We have just launched our consultation on planning, and town centre use is one of the areas that we are looking for feedback on. Bringing business rates into the mix is the next logical step.”