Councils appeal rates

Glasgow City Council
Glasgow City Council’s property division submitted a block appeal for RVs

SCOTTISH councils have been contesting their own business rates bills by appealing the rateable values for swathes of local authority owned properties.

Following the 2017 revaluation that led to many retailers facing a rates hike, firms managing the property estates of local authorities were swift to contest rateable values for council assets.

Scottish Assessor citations issued as part of the ongoing rateable value appeals process reveal that every mainland local authority in Scotland has property subject to an appeal.

A freedom of information request made by Scottish Grocer to City Property Glasgow (Investments) LLP – which manages the investment portfolio of Scotland’s largest local authority, Glasgow City Council – revealed the firm has submitted a block appeal. The block appeal covers all properties where City Property Glasgow is the named proprietor, including 485 retail units.

Glasgow City Council’s property division is not alone in contesting rateable values for a significant number of properties.

For the next three largest local authorities in Scotland by population, Scottish Assessor citations reveal:

• City of Edinburgh council has appeals pending for properties rateable values ranging from four to six figures;

• North Lanarkshire Council is the named appellant for 126 properties scheduled for appeal at a valuation hearing on 14 November;

• Fife Council Estates asset & facilities management services is the named appellant for 28 appeals on the books for the Fife Valuation Appeals Committee’s 28 November hearing, with 38 cited for an earlier hearing on 25 October and an additional five in September.

While rateable value appeals for local authorities may number in the hundreds for some councils, a representative of City Property Glasgow (Investments) said that so far, it has had “very few appeals which are considered to be successful.”

Not all those who have appealed may say the same.

The latest figures published by the Scottish Government reveal that as of 30 June, appeals have been submitted for more than 73,000 properties across Scotland in reference to the 2017 revaluation – representing 32% of the total valuation roll by number of premises.

As of 30 June, 26% of the 16,228 appeals processed against 2017 rateable values resulted in a change to the Scottish Assessors’ initial valuation.

The deadline for submitting a rateable value appeal was 30 September 2017.

David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, said the rate of appeals against ratable values show more frequent valuations are required.

“The SRC has consistently argued that it’s essential that business rates revaluations take place more frequently, and these figures substantiate that argument. In both 2010 and 2017 around a third of revaluations were appealed, often reflecting the enormous fluctuations in  rateable values during these lengthy periods and the lack of transparency over how rates bills are arrived at.

“It is encouraging that our concerns are being listened to, with the Scottish Government’s Finance Secretary having promised legislation next year which will see revaluations held every three years, which ought to lessen the appetite for appeals.

“This should smooth out hefty changes in rateable values and create a rates system that better flexes with economic and trading conditions.”

A spokesperson for City of Edinburgh Council said the local authority “fed back during the Barclay Review Consultation that it was in favour of more frequent valuations.”

A spokesperson for Fife Council said the frequency of revaluations “is a matter for the Scottish Parliament,” but noted that it currently operates a scheme to assist town centre businesses – Big Start Fife and Restart Fife.