Empty shop rates rise is under fire

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THE owner of the Brandon Shopping Centre in Motherwell has urged Local Government Minister Derek Mackay to reconsider his decision to add 40 per cent onto the rates bill for empty shops.

Business will soon be liable for 90 per cent of the full rateable value on a property if it lies empty for more than three months, compared with the 50 per cent they currently pay.

Mr Mackay told a meeting of Holyrood’s Local Government Committee that he hopes the move will persuade landlords to bring empty properties back into use and that the £18 million it raises will help ‘balance the books’.

William Gear, director of Chester Properties, said: “It might balance the Government’s books, but it will make ours a whole lot worse.

“This is a blow when landlords up and down the country are working hammer and tongs to find tenants for their empty shops.

“It’s a mistake to think that landlords leave properties empty to claim rates relief. The only reason we have any empty shops units is because of the difficulty in finding tenants in the current economic climate.”

The decision to cut the rates relief was opposed by Motherwell and Wishaw MSP John Pentland who warned the move could be ‘counter productive’.

He said: “In the past, we in the Labour party have agreed in principle that something must be done about unoccupied properties.

“The instrument will probably go through but, for the record, we believe that, rather than act as an incentive, it could result in the problem of further unoccupied properties.”

Central Scotland list MSP Margaret Mitchell added: “Don’t they realise that people are cutting rental income to the bone to try to rent out empty properties?

“In reality, this is an extended penalty on already hard-pressed businesses.”

It isn’t all bad news with Motherwell named North Lanarkshire’s job’s capital by online recruitment specialists JobisJob.

The company found that over a three-year period Motherwell outperformed its neighbouring towns of Bellshill, Wishaw, Airdrie and Coatbridge in terms of new job vacancies.

Sales and marketing director Christian Palau said: “Our study shows that Motherwell is punching well above its weight in terms of the number of new job vacancies it creates.

“Over the last three years we have seen an average of 55 new job offers per week pass through our books in Motherwell while Bellshill, which comes in second in the local area, has seen an average of only 37 new offers per week.

“To put these figures in perspective, Coatbridge has reported on average 30 new offers a week, Airdrie 28 and Wishaw 14.”