At this rate, the retail recovery won’t happen - Kevin Buckle
My second business rates bill arrived this week this time allowing for the 50 per cent discount given for the first three months.
I’m not really sure what the Scottish Government’s thoughts were on this as originally I received a demand for the full amount but then later a letter arrived telling me I could claim the discount for the first three months.
The letter did acknowledge this was clearly all very last minute, saying to ignore the first letter and wait to receive a revised figure.
This does though now appear to be the way things will be this year and compares very unfavourably with the rest of the UK, which will receive the same discount for the whole year.
There is of course also a sub-plot here as there has been a move to give local councils the right to set the non-domestic rates and that actually worries businesses even more than the current situation.
The bottom line is that neither Edinburgh Council nor the Scottish Government seem to have any understanding of business and as we move out of the pandemic and try to recover that could never be more important.
There is little hope that the imminent local elections will change anything and with Edinburgh city centre already suffering from the “St James effect”, leaving many shops on Princes Street and George Street empty, the council seems to have no plan beyond allowing retail shops to become restaurants and coffee shops.
With business rates providing such a large part of the council’s income it is hard to see how that money can be replaced but at the same time businesses need to see something for their money and for many businesses all they see are further obstacles being put in their way.
Just as dangerous as councillors and their officials are the business “experts” all spouting their theories about “repurposing” spaces. One thing you can be sure of is that these experts’ opinions are more likely to have come from LinkedIn than any practical experience.
Without wanting to sound like a broken record, as I’ve said this many times before the revival of vinyl is part of a bigger move towards nostalgia – and believe me you don’t have to be that old to be nostalgic as students already remember fondly their love for One Direction!
This nostalgic look back to the days of high street shopping has only been furthered by the lockdowns, meaning people couldn’t really go shopping at all beyond gathering essentials.
None of this fits with the narrative that those experts, who to some extent control how things move forward, want to pursue so it makes any resurgence for retail even harder.
There are always exceptions and it was city centre councillor Jo Mowat who recommended Avalanche to the Waverley Mall management and that has worked out well for everybody.
I haven’t given up hope of Waverley Market bringing in more interesting independent businesses but again we come back to the rates. When I moved in I got a great deal on the rent to help me settle in but I was paying full rates which as a long-established business was just manageable.
For many though the business rates mean no other incentives will be enough.
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