PUBS and household name high street retailers are among numerous Borders-based businesses which have lodged appeals against increased rateable values (RVs) imposed on their premises.
And one Galashiels publican believes the strain of paying that most basic of operating overheads will be too much for many of them.
“These appeals are extremely important because the cost of meeting the rates bill is potentially crippling in the current economic climate,” said Scott Paterson whose firm, Gala Pate Ltd, owns two hostelries in the town – the Auld Mill in Bank Street and the Ladhope Inn in High Buckholmside.
His company will attempt to minimise the impact of the non-domestic RVs, levied by the Scottish Government, imposed in 2010 and replacing valuations made five years earlier, at a hearing of the Selkirkshire Valuation Appeal Committee (VAC) on Old Gala House, Galashiels, on June 7, when a total of 45 appeals are due to be heard.
They include some of the largest players in the retail scene in the central Borders.
Six of the companies trading at the Gala Water Retail Park, owned by Aviva Investors Pensions and represented by Edinburgh-based chartered surveyors Eric Young & Co, are scheduled for that hearing.
The units, and their disputed RVs, include Marks & Spencer (£180,500), Clarks Shoes (£86,100), Next (£142,500) and New Look (£140,000).
Young is also representing Matalan at Comely Bank (£283,000), while other appeals emanating from that location are Carpetright (£93,000) and Currys (£134,000).
At Low Buckholmside in Galashiels, appeals have been lodged on behalf of Comet (£132,000), Sports Direct (£120,000), Halfords (£103,500) and B&Q (£305,000).
Apart from The Auld Mill (£18,700) and the Ladhope Inn (£16,800), a large number of Galashiels pubs and licensed eateries are on the appeal list, including Reivers Bar (£10,900), The Foundry (£29,200), the Harrow Inn (£23,100), the Woodcutter (£14,900), the Glue Pot (£15,500) and Quins Licensed Restaurant (£43,700).
A number of the appeals in the Selkirkshire tranche emanate from the Dunsdalehaugh area of Selkirk – Baxters (£91,500), Leading Labels (£64,000) and the Co-operative/NGT furniture store (£383,000).
Selkirk pubs including the Fleece (£10,400), the Town Arms (£19,200) and two currently empty premises, the Cross Keys (£12,700) and the Queens Head (£13,600), both owned by Punch Pub Company, are scheduled to appeal.
Several non-Selkirkshire pleas will also be heard at the Galashiels sitting, including those on behalf of the Hawick outlets of Homebase (£247,000) and Chrysties Furniture Centre (£42,800), along with Jedburgh’s Edinburgh Woollen Mill (£114,500) and the Factory Shop in Kelso’s Bowmont Street (£51,300).
VACs will also sit to consider 23 appeals from Berwickshire on May 31, 27 appeals from smaller businesses in Jedburgh on June 13 and five appeals, including one from Stobo Castle Health Spa, which has a new rateable value of £540,000, in Peebles on June 20.
Back in 2010, Scottish Borders Council, which has ironically also appealed many of the RVs imposed on its own properties, voted against urging the SNP majority government of the day to reverse its decision to abolish rates relief, thus allowing the now disgruntled businesses to phase over five years the increased payments explicit in the revaluation which came into effect on April 1 of that year.
Instead, the majority of councillors backed the reforms from finance minister John Swinney, not least the decision to give many business a 100 per cent rate discount by increasing the RV threshold from £8,000 to £10,000.
Since then the poundage rate has increased from 40.7p per £1 of RV in 2010/11 to 45p in the current financial year.
“I think it is noteworthy that, as far as Galashiels is concerned, there is no mention of either Tesco or Asda on the list of appeals,” said Mr Paterson.
“But it is these giant retailers, with their discounted drinks deals, which have put enormous strain on a pub industry which is still reeling from the smoking ban.
“The 50p minimum unit price for alcohol will not come into effect until next year and, even then, we believe the public is so inured to buying its alcohol in bulk quantities that it will not have an immediate positive effect on pubs.
“That is why these appeals against rateable values which are so unrealistic in these tough times are vital and I hope the VAC will take on board the real concerns of businesses struggling to survive.”
The last date for disposal of appeals against the 2010 RVs by VACs is December 31, 2013.