Hearts and Hibs team up to fight city chiefs over rates

THEY may be rivals on the football pitch, but it seems that Hearts and Hibs are united in fighting financial matters.

The two Edinburgh clubs have both lodged formal appeals against the new business rates bill they will have to pay for their stadiums – despite them facing lower bills than last year.

The clubs are among nearly 2,000 firms in the Lothians that have now submitted appeals against their new rates level, which came into force in April.

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Many firms are seeing thousands of pounds added to their annual rates bill.

That is not the case at either Tynecastle or Easter Road but both have lodged appeals anyway.

Graham Birse, deputy chief executive of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, said: "The rateable value is supposed to be the rental income of the property, but for certain premises, including football grounds, it is based on turnover, like with hotels, cinemas and others.

"The principal problem is that the revaluation was done in 2008 at the peak of the market. To tie people to a rate based on a financial climate that does not now exist is simply not fair.

"If the managing director of Hearts Football Club looks at turnover over the next five years compared to the last ten, he may well say 'we have 25 per cent less season tickets so income will fall'. So even although their rateable value has decreased, it may not be as much as it should have been."

The new valuations, which came into force at the start of April, were based on estimations made by assessors in 2008.

Easter Road Stadium saw its rateable value rise by 10 per cent to 215,000 following the revaluation, while Tynecastle's valuation declined by 1,000 to 224,000.

Because of changes to the formula used to decide the business rates bills for companies, Hearts will see their bill fall by 16 per cent to 91,168, while Hibs' bill declined by seven per cent to 87,505.

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Many businesses who have seen their bills reduce have still appealed because they do not think the reduction is sufficient given the tough economic climate.

It is understood that many of the claims are seen as "spurious" and likely to be rejected.

Joan Hewton, assessor at the Lothian Valuation Joint Board, said: "I confirm I have received appeals against the net annual values for the two football grounds.

"The valuation of league football grounds is based on numerous factors including ground quality, construction, capacity, attendance etc, thus not all subjects will show the same levels of value change at a revaluation.

"Both subjects will have reduced rates bills for 2010/11 compared to 2009/10."

She also confirmed that 1,920 appeals have now been submitted, which is 6 per cent of all businesses that were assessed.

A spokesman for Hibs confirmed that the club has appealed against the valuation but did not want to comment further on the reasons, while nobody at Hearts was available to comment.