Conservatives warn over repeat of CAP fiasco if business rates relief IT collapses

North East region MSP Bill Bowman asked finance minister Derek Mackay for his assurances that the regions businesses will not be at the mercy of IT processing.
North East region MSP Bill Bowman asked finance minister Derek Mackay for his assurances that the regions businesses will not be at the mercy of IT processing.

Scottish councils could be left to shoulder the cost in the event of an IT catastrophe over business rates, it has been claimed.

Millions of pounds in business rates relief are to be processed by local authority computer systems after the deadline swung shut last week.

But Scottish Conservatives fear a repeat of the fiasco around Common Agricultural Policay (CAP) subsidies, which the Scottish Government has failed to meet targets on for the past two years.

It only escaped a multi-million-pound fine because a much higher rate of processing in England meant the UK target was achieved.

North East region MSP Bill Bowman asked finance minister Derek Mackay for his assurances that the region’s businesses will not be at the mercy of IT processing.

He said Mr Mackay’s written answer, which omitted any mention of contingency planning and that it was “a matter for local government”, was far from satisfactory.

“Unlike the Scottish Government, most councils do not have the luxury of calling on £178 million IT systems,” he said.

“Some businesses faced 200% increases in business rates following a massive hike in their rateable values this year.

“The government backed the concept of rates relief for the likes of hospitality businesses which may be about to put the shutters down if their applications are not processed in time.

“I call on the Scottish Government to give firms and their employees a guarantee they will not have to fear a letter through the door because of computer problems.”

Some North-east businesses have seen the rates they were initially due to pay rocket by up to 200%.

The Scottish Government later announced a 12.5% cap on rises for those in the hospitality sector.

This was further amended in Aberdeen to cap hospitality rates increases at 3%.

Gordon MP Colin Clark, who previously called on the government to guarantee locally-raised rates would stay in the area, said: “Ministers have admitted there is no contingency in place in the event of IT failure on rates relief.

“The single biggest issue faced by firms in my constituency is the huge RV increase.

“Local authorities in the north east will no doubt try their best to process many thousands of relief applications, along with everything else they have to do.

“But if something goes wrong, will they have to deal with the fallout from angry businesses?”