Well what a difference a border makes. Less than three weeks from the time the Barclay Review made its recommendations on business rates, the Scottish Minister stood up in the Scottish Parliament and agreed to try and implement most of them.
In particular the promise to introduce three yearly valuations with a “tone” date a year prior and the expansion of fresh start relief from 50% to 100 % were welcome news to Scottish businesses.
Of course, it was not all perfect. The remit of the Barclay Review was that the business rate system should be revenue neutral, and some recommendations will need to go through Parliament to be inputted, if additional funds are needed. This will inevitably lead to some delays and disappointments, and our view is that cost neutrality should never have been of prime importance.
So, what in England? By comparison the UK Government seems to be totally ignoring the cries of businesses and the professionals that try to advise it. The debacle of the latest delayed seven-year revaluation in 2017 caused many hardships for businesses which seems unnoticed by Government.
There has been no promise of a move to three yearly valuations or a recognition that this would help combat volatility or enable businesses to plan their finances better.
And to cap it all, against all advice, the UK Government has introduced a new ‘Check Challenge Appeal’ system, the result of which is a backlog of appeals and a cumbersome system which businesses are finding impossible to negotiate.
Unlike in Scotland, the UK Government’s approach seems little about listening to businesses or stimulating growth – instead it is adding to their problems.
Given the uncertainty of Brexit, many businesses are feeling increasingly vulnerable and could do with more support. The lessons from Scotland? Let’s think about moving over the border.