Fury mounts over business rates rise

A leading Deeside businessman is prepared to take his fight against crippling rates rises to Holyrood.

Thursday, 2nd February 2017, 6:00 am
Bert McIntosh is facing a quadrupling of his business rates

Bert McIntosh, boss of Echt-based McIntosh Plant Hire, is facing a quadrupling in business rates to more than £2million from April 1.

And he has warned that a future move into decommissioning work - possibly affecting hundreds of jobs - is on hold until the issue is resolved.

The 72-year-old businessman, who has been at his Birchmoss site for 40 years, has written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon outlining the likely impact of the proposed hike and urging her to leave rates unchanged until 2020.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has ruled out a freeze on rates

Mr McIntosh, whose family firm was founded in 1951, and other North-east business chiefs have warned that firms will collapse and jobs will be lost unless the Scottish Government reverses planned rates increases.

In his letter to the First Minister, he says the proposed increase is an “insurmountable figure that any small company could never pay into a system that offers no valued returns”.

Mr McIntosh has offered to be part of a Holyrood delegation to personally put forward their case. He said: “We urgently need something done about this. It will have a huge impact on companies in the area and there will be closures and job losses.”

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay met local business leaders in Aberdeen on Friday but while he promised to work with local authorities to find a solution, he ruled out freezing rates at their current level.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has ruled out a freeze on rates

Mr Mackay said after the meeting: “We can’t postpone the implementation of these new values but it is the case that businesses should engage with the assessor to make sure the assessor has got it right.”

Firms in the North-east say they are being particularly badly hit as their property values were assessed while the region’s economy was booming.

Mr Mackay announced a series of changes to business rates from April 1 during his Scottish budget announcement in December.

The business rates situation was discussed in an emergency debate at Aberdeenshire Council’s meeting last Thursday.

Banchory and Mid Deeside Councillor Karen Clark described the rise as “unacceptable” and the “sudden, sharp shock of what they will have to pay is astounding.”

She said later: “If we take no action and do not get the Finance Secretary to think again, there will be serious job losses up and down Deeside, more businesses going to the wall and everyone suffers in these circumstances.”

Meanwhile, West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Stuart Donaldson has pledged to help local businesses appeal against the proposed increases.

He said: “I know how vital small businesses are to Aberdeenshire and how much of a driving force tourism is to the local community and want to help in any way I can.

“I meet regularly with small business owners in my constituency and, given how vital the tourism industry is to our local economy, I want to ensure that Aberdeenshire is ‘open for business.’

“Businesses can appeal their rates valuation and have until September to do so.”