Admission that business problems are growing at an alarming rate

BUSINESSES FACING CRIPPLING increases as a result of the revaluation of non-domestic rates were handed some hope last night from Moray’s SNP MSP Richard Lochhead.

One of the main complaints from local firms facing increases – many 200% and more – has been that while they are told they can appeal, during consideration of that they still have to pay the new rates demands from April.

With the current appeals process taking anything up to three years, that means for many even a successful appeal would possibly come too late to save their business.

Now, while the Scottish Government continues to refuse to offer any intervention into what has become a national scandal, Mr Lochhead is seeking an agreement with the Grampian Valuation Joint Board to create an appeals process that might see the worst-hit firms in Moray being given priority treatment.

Mr Lochhead said: “Many local businesses are alarmed by rises in their rates bills which are over 200% in some cases. The final assessments will be issued in mid-March and it is important, providing there is no change by then, that businesses lodge appeals.

“I’m not surprised by businesses complaining about being expected to start paying such increases from April onwards, when they don’t know when their appeal will be heard and assessments revised.”

The MSP commented after attending a meeting of the Lossiemouth Business Association where he said the seriousness of the situation was brought home to him.

However, one local businessman said: “I have my own method of speeding up the appeals process – where an appeal is made, we should only have to pay the current level or rates until such time as a decision is made. I have a feeling that would greatly speed up the process.

“Better still, Mr Lochhead could ask his colleagues at Holyrood to actually be realistic and support the small to medium businesses who are being forced into considering shutting their doors because of this – that is the reality they have so far failed to address.”