Edinburgh Palette falls foul of business rates bureaucracy that's hard to believe – John McLellan
In local government you’re never more than five minutes from mind-boggling bureaucracy to which the response is usually “I’m sorry, we don’t make the rules”.
Into the abyss has fallen the successful Edinburgh Palette arts charity, a victim of a business rates valuation which only lovers of arcane regulations will appreciate.
The Palette takes over vacant buildings which are difficult to let, such as St Margaret’s House in Meadowbank and the old State Street HQ on Ferry Road, turns them into offices and workshops of all shapes and sizes, rents them to creative enterprises and takes care of maintenance and the bills. The owner gets an income from the Palette, the buildings are kept weatherproof, little businesses only have one payment to make, and there is only one rates transaction.
But Lothian valuers decided internal alterations and the scale of some businesses in St Margaret’s House meant this had to change, and 240 occupants have been hit with rates demands and separate water bills. Such is the transient nature of many tenants that scores of demands were out of date before they arrived.
In the resulting chaos, the Palette’s business model has been wrecked, the small organisations it hosts face an uncertain future, the owner’s income is threatened and the council is now chasing 240 bills. And the Palette is an important partner for the council, helping bring small creative businesses into West Shore Road as part of the Granton regeneration.
There is an appeals process, but that’s just more work for pen-pushers, when a bit of common sense would have done. But them’s the rules.
John McLellan is a Conservative councillor for Craigentinny/Duddingston