THE body in charge of revaluing properties for business rates is under pressure to halt the process and carry out a review amid growing concern about the threat to jobs and livelihoods from rocketing bills.
Edinburgh East SNP MP Tommy Sheppard has written to the regional assessor for Lothian, highlighting massive rises faced by many businesses and apparent discrepancies in how similar premises are being affected.
The Evening News told yesterday how the Espy bar and restaurant on Portobello promenade is due to see its rates demand soar from £7350 a year to £40,344.
Owner Amanda Caygill said she would have no alternative but to lay off staff, put up prices and cut opening hours. The rates bill at Reds restaurant in Portobello will also jump from £2600 a year to £10,400.
In the letter Mr Sheppard said: “These increases, if they stand, will kill some local businesses, severely hurt others and put off future businesses from investing in the local area.”
And he asked for clarification on the method for calculating the values and questions the justification for such rises.
He wrote: “The rises are not uniform and there is such a variation even within the same sector in the same street that I have to ask you clarify the method involved in calculating these new values.
“No-one is suggesting that rateable values should not rise, especially in an area which is up-and-coming, but the variations involved and the sheer scale of the rises in some instances of over 400 per cent are beyond reason.
“I would ask you to urgently review these proposed increases and put a hold on the proposed changes until those involved have been able to make representations and an assessment has been made of the local economic impact.”
Lothian assessor Graeme Strachan said the revaluation was to ensure an equitable distribution of the rates burden based on up-to-date property rental values,
“Property values change and revaluations are therefore necessary to give effect to the changes which have occurred in each property sector,” he said.
“A significant trend in Lothian has seen the value of some properties connected to the food and beverage sector and tourism industry increase significantly in line with market rental evidence.
“Assessors are currently engaging with representatives from those and other sectors to ensure that the proposed valuations are both fair and reasonable.
“The value of properties in other sectors has also changed, with many property’s values increasing by a smaller amount or reducing. These variations reflect the different rental market conditions for property and the physical change in localities between revaluations.
“Following representation by Tommy Sheppard, staff are in dialogue with a number of his constituents concerning proposed rateable values.”