Perth & Kinross (P&K) are the first local authority to seek to implement the business rates relief powers introduced last year by the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.
Section 140 of the 2015 Act inserted a new provision into the Local Government (Financial Provisions etc.) (Scotland) Act 1962 allowing councils to implement a scheme to reduce rates levied in their area for the year 2015/16 onwards. This move toward “localism” was heralded by the Scottish Government and sought to restore some autonomy to Scottish local authorities in order to allow investment in local businesses and to attract new ventures to their area.
The scheme being implemented by P&K is an extension of their current Small Business Bonus Scheme, which already applies to those with rateable values up to £12,000. The proposal extends this to provide a further 20% relief to business currently receiving 25% through the current scheme and to consider relief where rateable value is up to £30,000.
It is estimated that over 300 businesses could benefit from these additional measures, which will be available until 31 March 2017, although the reliefs will not be applied to off-sales, bookmakers, arcades or gaming businesses nor to retailers of ‘legal highs’ (or new psychoactive substances). P&K are now considering a relief for occupants of premises that were historically empty and difficult to let. If these businesses do not qualify for the other measures, they can receive a 50% relief for up to 6 months in a financial year.
Many local authorities will be watching P&K very closely to see if the intended effect of encouraging independent and local business in the area is realised and, if so, we may see many others following P&K’s lead for the 2016/17 financial year.