The Scottish Government has annouced it plans to allow councils to adjust business rates relief. Business rates and reliefs are set for all Scotland by the Scottish Government and funds distributed to councils under a set formula. The new plan will allow authorities some scope to vary the relief they offer local businesses. The Government claims this is both a boost for business and significant empowerment of local authorities. This plan highlights the Scottish Government’s commitment to reducing business taxes. We are more concerned with having enough money to pay for public services.
Another question is: is this really as Derek MacKay claims
“allowing them to respond to the needs of their communities”?
All that is actually being offered is a choice over where and how much councils can reduce business rates. Nowhere are councils being allowed to increase their income. Earlier this year UNISON showed how council’s were increasing charges to residents in the face of budget cuts. Businesses benefit from local government services and should pay towards the costs of delivery like the rest of us.
Instead of a national system where councils can choose where to make reductions it would be better to allow local authorities to set their own business rates. This would give them a valuable leaver for both economic development and funding to pay for services and infrastructure. Local control would be a much simpler and cheaper system to operate rather than a complex set of local reliefs. That really would be allowing them to respond to the needs of their communities.