MSP is upbeat on business rates following Assessor assurances

FEARS OVER THE time it would take to launch an appeal into crippling business rates increases are being dismissed by the man at the head of the revaluation process in Moray.

As firms face rises that in several cases are over 200% of their current levels, fears have been raised over the viability of several businesses in the region – joining many throughout Scotland who forced a U-turn from the Scottish Government.

Last month Finance Minister Derek Mackay MSP announced a cap on business rates for those in the leisure industry of 12.5% – but that would only be for a year, at the end of which they would be expected to pay the new rate.

Several more firms not in the leisure industry must pay from April – with only those in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire receiving the 12.5% relief cap. Worried businesses were further concerned on learning that it could take up to two years to decide any appeals they launched – and during that time they would be required to pay at the new non-domestic rates level.

Yesterday, local SNP MSP Richard Lochhead held a meeting with Ian Milton, the rates assessor for Moray, passing on the concerns of local businesses in his constituency and seeking assurance that the process would be quicker than publicised.

Following that meeting the MSP said he is satisfied at the process, saying: “It is clear that the assessors are willing to review cases on an ongoing basis.”

Mr Milton, however, warned that it would still take some time to speak to all businesses affected, saying: “My office can consider any representations received from those who believe we have got their rateable value incorrect. If evidence is presented that indicates the figure is wrong then we will change it and that is that.

“We are quite prepared to go over it with people – that is the way it has been and remains to be.”

Commenting on the issue of disparity of rates between similar businesses in Elgin and Lossiemouth, highlighted by several including one of Moray’s largest firms, Grampian Furnishers who face a much larger increase than a similar store in Elgin, Mr Milton added: “There is always a differential in movement in revaluations – whether it is between locality or sectors – because we always start afresh.

“The rateable value for properties on Elgin High Street will still be a lot higher than in Lossiemouth though.”

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