Council picks up the gauntlet to champion fair business rates in Fife

Fife Council is the only local authority to give evidence to Scotland’s review of business rates

Fife Council has given formal evidence to the Barclay Review of Business Rates after raising concerns about the impact on local businesses.
It’s the only stand-alone local authority to present evidence on business rates, alongside organisations such as COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities), SOLACE (Society of Local Authority Chief Executives), IRRV (rates practitioners) and the Scottish Local Government Partnership.
Topics up for discussion were:
  • Avoidance – views on avoidance and possible measures to tackle this
  • Reliefs/ exemptions – the range of current reliefs and exemptions offered
  • Billing and Collection – by councils
  • Incentivisation of Councils
  • Interaction between rates and Economic Development
Fife Council says it worked closely with the local business community to prepare its Barclay Review of Business Rates submission and its research reveals examples of how the business rates system is impacting on business decisions and investment in Fife.
Cllr Lesley Laird, Fife Council’s Depute Leader and Spokesperson for Economy & Planning, said: “I am delighted that Fife is getting two opportunities to make their case to the Scottish Government’s Business Rates Review Panel.
“Bill Harvey of Kirkcaldy4All has already given evidence on behalf of Fife’s BID (Business Improvement District) companies, and now the Council will also provide oral evidence.
“We have campaigned long and hard for a wide-ranging review of the rates system and for Fife’s business community’s voice to be heard.
“Being asked to give evidence is testimony to the campaign and the support that we have had from both Fife Chamber of Commerce and the Fife Economy Partnership.
“Fife Council does not set business rates, but this is one of the main issues that Fife businesses repeatedly raise with me.
“The rates system is undermining confidence in the property market, and with the recent changes made to business rates for this year, it is causing a great deal of concern for businesses.
“The longer the current system remains in place, the more it will create a climate of uncertainty for businesses and hamper the development of our industrial areas.
“The system of exemptions and reliefs is complex, and the real costs and benefits poorly understood. In addition, we believe reliefs should be targeted where they will make the most economic impact and support permanent jobs.
“The most recent revaluations are seeing some wide variations in winners and losers.  The hotel, food and drink sectors look to be particularly impacted by the changes, as are large stores in town centres.
“If we want to stimulate more visitors to support our night-time economy and town centre vibrancy then, we must question whether this this is the right balance.
“Following the latest revaluation, Fife Council is now set to undertake further work to feed into the national discussion.
“Our research shows that we need a much more dynamic system, with more frequent revaluation, allowing rate-able values to adjust more flexibly in response to changes in the wider economic environment.
“This needs to be underpinned by stable rules on reliefs and exemptions. We know the timing of the previous revaluation hurt town centres and added to the challenges of the recession. It’s in everyone’s interest to make sure that lessons are learnt from this.
“The changes to the system introduced last April are causing concern and appear to conflict with the Scottish Government’s aim of supporting growth, jobs and exports.
“Fife Council agrees with COSLA’s view that rates should be brought into local authority control – an approach already being progressed in England.”
The business rates review took place on 10 February in Edinburgh.