Publican’s anger at business rates bill

Jim and Eileen Paris of the Exchange Bar, Hawick. Business rates dispute.
Jim and Eileen Paris of the Exchange Bar, Hawick. Business rates dispute.

A HAWICK pub owner has hit out at Scottish Borders Council’s business rates system which has left him with a bill for tens of thousands of pounds, writes Kenny Paterson.

Jim Paris, who owns the Exchange Bar with wife Eileen, has been involved in a long-running dispute with SBC.

The publican claims he was never informed why his annual rates doubled at the start of the 2011/12 financial year. Having questioned the fee hike, he says the council then discovered it had not charged him at all for the previous year, making him also liable to pay another four-figure annual sum.

And his continued dispute and failure to pay the charges for 2012/13 resulted in Mr Paris being summoned to Jedburgh Sheriff Court to hand over this year’s fee, totalling £9,000, with the addition of a 10 per cent surcharge.

Mr Paris said: “I have no problem paying rates, but they just went through the roof two years ago. It is tough at the moment with the recession, along with competing with the cheap drink offered in supermarkets, the new licensing laws and the new two per cent beer duty rise.

“But I just want answers as to why I am having to pay such a large rate. When the rates initially shot up two years ago I had a meeting with the council and they told me it was based on turnover.

“But then I spoke to an SBC employee who told me it wasn’t. If it is based on turnover, it seems you are punished for working that bit harder to try and make your business a success.”

Mr Paris is awaiting the verdict of an appeal against this year’s fee, but is currently paying back the £9,000 charge following the court order in December.

Hawick councillor Stuart Marshall, who has discussed the case with Mr Paris and SBC officials, told us: “Business rates or non-domestic rates are a tax on the occupation of a business property and are calculated by multiplying the rateable value of the property by the national poundage rate, currently I believe to be between 45p and 48p. Assessments are carried out every five years and, until this national poundage rate is reduced and the timescales for re-valuation is revisited, then I think this issue will always present itself as a problem.”

An SBC spokesman said: “It is inappropriate for Scottish Borders Council to comment on individual cases regarding liability for non-domestic rates.”