BUSINESS leaders have called on more councils to use their powers to provide help for firms that are facing huge increases in rates bills following a controversial revaluation of properties.
The call comes as around 1,200 businesses in Aberdeenshire are set to learn this week how much relief they will receive under a £3 million scheme introduced by the local council to help.
Councillors in Aberdeenshire voted in March to use the authority’s powers to ensure businesses in the area received some relief from rates increases, as the fall out from the crude price plunge takes a heavy toll on the area.
A revaluation of properties completed in 2015 left thousands of businesses across Scotland facing potentially massive increases in their rates bills from this month. Bills are generally based on the valuation of the properties firms use.
The results of the revaluation provoked a furious reaction among business leaders which said the increases proposed would impose a heavy burden on firms amid uncertain times for the economy.
The Scottish Government agreed to cap increases for firms in some sectors under a one year transitional relief scheme worth £45m following a campaign by The Herald.
Aberdeenshire council will provide up to 50 per cent relief for one year from any increase in rates bills in respect of qualifying properties arising from the revaluation.
James Bream, research and policy director at Aberdeen and Grampian, said the initiative was helpful although its effect may be limited.
Noting the severity of the oil and gas downturn, he said: “It’s a welcome sticking plaster but our real worry is about where will we be this time next year.”
Mr Bream wants councils across the north east to provide help. Aberdeen City Council has said it will provide £3m relief if the Scottish Government offers matching assistance.
A spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses said other councils should use their powers to vary rates bills to help firms.
He added: “Councils have those powers. We understand that budgets are tight but we make the case for those powers to be used on key local high streets.”
With 11,000 business ratepayers in Aberdeenshire, the relief provided by the council will benefit around 10 per cent of firms in the area. It will not apply to firms that are eligible for transitional relief.
In March the Scottish Government capped rises for 2017-18 at 12.5 per cent for hotels, pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafes, a £40m measure benefitting around 8,500 premises.
It also announced a 12.5 per cent cap for 1000 offices in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire worth another £5m.
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