Businesses condemn Swinney’s rates revaluation delay to 2017

Finance secretary John Swinney
Finance secretary John Swinney
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Business groups today attacked finance secretary John Swinney’s decision to delay a rates revaluation until 2017, warning he has left current ratings “dangerously out of date”.

Swinney, who announced his decision as part of the Scottish Government’s wider funding “settlement” with local councils, said the delay matches the timescale introduced by the UK government south of the Border.

But business organisations expressed concern at the decision. Andy Willox, the Federation of Small Businesses’ (FSB) Scottish policy convenor, said: “Many of our members who felt the last revaluation pegged their rates bills to the height of the market in 2008 will be disappointed with today’s announcement.

“By postponing the next revaluation, the Scottish Government is allowing business premises’ valuations to become dangerously out of date.”

Liz Cameron, chief executive of Scottish Chambers of Commerce, warned: “Scottish ratepayers are suffering as a result of the last rating revaluation, which singularly failed to take account of the worst recession to hit the developed world in over half a century.

“The decision to follow suit with England, where – unlike in Scotland – businesses have at least had the protection of transitional relief against sky rocketing rates bills since 2010, and perpetuate this iniquitous settlement until 2017 is concerning, to say the least.”

Cameron also criticised Swinney’s decision to again match England’s “poundage” rate next year. She said: “It could have taken a bold pro-business stance and chosen to freeze business rates next year but instead it has chosen to the defer to the UK government to make the final decision on how much Scottish businesses will pay next year.”

CBI Scotland director Iain McMillan added that Scottish retailers were also at a disadvantage to their English counterparts after being hit by the “burden” of the £95 million retail rates levy.

But all three business groups welcomed the review of business rates that Swinney also launched today.

Swinney said: “The Scottish Government will take the time we need to get reform of the business rates system right.”