A row has erupted at Kirkcaldy’s West End after local firms branded Fife Council a “liar” for saying it offered them help during improvement works.
The comment infuriated businessmen who said their pleas for support were flatly turned down – despite delayed roadworks bringing their shops to the brink of folding.
William Hodge of Rugs and Runners told the Press: “Are they thick? We asked for help and they told us there was no help. I haven’t had a wage since January, I’m just about through and I don’t know how I’m going to survive because I’m now getting into debt to live.”
The project began in January and was meant to be finished in July but – in a further blow to businesses – a mistake by contractors Land Engineering in ordering the correct amount of granite means the work could move into next year.
According to Fife Council, businesses had opportunity to contact the authority to “ensure they were getting all benefits entitled to them, to assist them through a period of disruption.”
“Fife Council is not aware of any businesses taking up this offer to date,” the spokesman added.
Dean Melville, who owns four businesses in the West End, hit back saying: “Someone, somewhere is telling lies. The passing trade for business at the West End since the start of the works has been nothing short of horrendous.”
He added: “If we are still expected to pay full rates, seriously, there is something wrong.”
Mark Dewar, service manager (design and construction), said: “We apologise if our response implied we had made direct contact with each business owner specifically about benefit entitlements.”
He added the council had held drop-in sessions which were poorly attended and officers had visited premises.
“Councillor Judy Hamilton then met with a number of business owners one Saturday morning and subsequently forwarded some advice from our finance team to one of the owners, who’d agreed to disseminate it to the group,” Mr Dewar said.
There was no legislation which enabled rates relief for these circumstances and it was not in the council’s power to give any rebates on rates already paid.
He added: “Our rates team can look at individual rates assessments to make sure businesses are benefiting, if eligible, from any existing relief schemes or set up payment plans to help deal with cash flow.”
Roger Mullin MP commented: “I was extremely dissatisfied to hear the roadworks are to be delayed for a further four months, and potentially longer. I have written to ask that Fife Council pass on the compensation received from the contractor to the businesses directly affected .”