Barclay report could bring ‘sting in the tail’

Lesley Laird Labour MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.
Lesley Laird Labour MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath.

The long-awaited Barclay Report could result in a “sting in the tail for Fife Council” according to a Fife MP.

The “cash neutral” report, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government to examine and overhaul business rates across Scotland, was published on Tuesday and made 30 recommendations for change.

They included reviewing business rates every three years, as opposed to five, from 2022 and a more transparent system of assessment.

MP Lesley Laird, who in her former role as deputy leader of Fife Council had given evidence to the review, said the recommendations had taken “a practical common sense approach.”

She said: “The tightening up of loop holes in the system is to be welcomed but will undoubtedly require additional staff to deliver it.”

“The recommendation for all property to be on the valuation roll also closes down a long-standing issue and brings business operations on agriculture land into the system and makes sense.”

However, Ms Laird questioned the proposal to remove rates relief status from councils and universities.

“This seems to contract the approach recommended for business,” she said.

“While saying that businesses need time to be consulted on changes to their rates, the implication is that the public sector can just “stump up” immediately with the proposal to not wait for legislation but just top slice their budget next year.”

Ms Laird added: “This is inconsistent and unrealistic.

“Already hard pressed public sector organisations just cannot ‘magic up’ millions of pounds without considering the impact both in service provision and jobs.

“The Scottish Government ... will hopefully not just use the public sector as a cash cow to cash neutrally fund the wider recommendations.”

Welcoming the report, Derek Mackay, Finance Secretary, said: “Having now received the Barclay Review, the Scottish Government will respond swiftly to its recommendations.”