Miche­lin axed jobs af­ter rates rose by £300k un­der SNP

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Michael Black­ley Scot­tish Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

A FAC­TORY fac­ing clo­sure with the cat­a­strophic loss of 850 jobs saw its busi­ness rates soar by £300,000 as a re­sult of the SNP’s high tax poli­cies.

Now min­is­ters have ad­mit­ted they may have to backpedal and of­fer Dundee’s Miche­lin plant a rates cut or an in­jec­tion of tax­pay­ers’ cash in a des­per­ate bid to keep it open.

Miche­lin an­nounced the clo­sure of the plant ear­lier this week, with its en­tire work­force in­formed they will be out of work in 18 months.

Fi­nance Sec­re­tary Derek Mackay has launched an ‘ac­tion group’ and promised to hold cri­sis talks in a bid to save the stricken plant.

How­ever, the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment is fac­ing ques­tions over the role its high-tax poli­cies have played in the fac­tory’s cri­sis af­ter it emerged it was hit by a 39 per cent busi­ness rates rise.

Min­is­ters say they will now con­sider a cut, as well as an in­jec­tion of pub­lic cash, as part of their ef­forts to res­cue the fac­tory.

Con­ser­va­tive MSP Bill Bow­man, who rep­re­sents the North East Scot­land re­gion, said: ‘The SNP has some ex­tremely se­ri­ous ques­tions to an­swer here.

‘It is clearly the case that the SNP’s own poli­cies are mak­ing life dif­fi­cult for firms right across the coun­try, and have added to Miche­lin’s woes.

‘Work­ers at the plant won’t only want to hear Derek Mackay’s warm words – they’ll want an ex­pla­na­tion in due course about the SNP Gov­ern­ment’s role in Miche­lin’s clo­sure de­ci­sion.’

Miche­lin has been hit by the SNP dou­bling its ‘large busi­ness sup­ple­ment’, as well as the con­tro­ver­sial reval­u­a­tion of busi­ness rates which left thou­sands of firms fac­ing big in­creases.

This year, the fac­tory – val­ued at £2.2mil­lion by as­ses­sors – is due to pay £1.1mil­lion in busi­ness rates.

That bill has rock­eted by £312,022, or 39 per cent, in five years, from £793,588 in 2013-14.

Over that pe­riod, the bill the firm pays for the SNP’s ‘large busi­ness sup­ple­ment’ has nearly quadru­pled, from £15,164 to £56,810.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment also grad­u­ally in­creased the ‘poundage rate’ charged on larger premises over a num­ber of years, be­fore dou­bling it in 2016.

Miche­lin was so con­cerned by the in­creases im­posed un­der the lat­est reval­u­a­tion of the plant that it has sub­mit­ted an ap­peal which has not yet been re­solved.

Mr Mackay said he would con­sider of­fer­ing the fac­tory rates re­lief or tax­payer-funded fi­nan­cial aid in a bid to save jobs.

He said yes­ter­day: ‘I have been clear that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment will leave no stone un­turned in our ef­forts to find a vi­able and sus­tain­able fu­ture for the plant and its highly skilled work­force.

‘The Miche­lin Ac­tion Group will work tire­lessly in the com­ing weeks to ex­plore all op­tions and pro­vide Miche­lin with a propo­si­tion that demon­strates what sup­port can be of­fered, be it busi­ness rates or fi­nan­cial aid, to help re­tain a pres­ence in Dundee.

‘Work­ing with the work­force and in­dus­try ex­perts, the group will ex­am­ine how the plant could be re­pur­posed for the fu­ture if Miche­lin de­cides to press ahead with the clo­sure.’

In­dus­try lead­ers say the large busi­ness sup­ple­ment, paid by ev­ery firm with premises val­ued at more than £51,000, has put a huge strain on Scots man­u­fac­tur­ers and sev­eral other in­dus­tries.

In Scot­land, the large busi­ness sup­ple­ment is set at 2.6 per cent – dou­ble the rate charged Eng­land.

A CBI Scot­land spokesman said: ‘Busi­nesses are con­cerned that the cur­rent busi­ness rates land­scape is un­able to keep up with re­al­i­ties on the ground.

‘Bring­ing the large busi­ness sup­ple­ment into par­ity with Eng­land re­mains a key pri­or­ity – as the higher rate can make Scot­land less at­trac­tive to in­ter­na­tional in­vest­ment, par­tic­u­larly when that in­vest­ment in­cludes the ac­qui­si­tion of com­mer­cial prop­erty.’

Miche­lin’s an­nual busi­ness rates bill in­creased from £793,588 in 2013-14 to £808,752 in 2014-15 and £830,656 in 2015-16.

It then jumped to £1.25mil­lion in 2016-17 – the year the large busi­ness sup­ple­ment was dou­bled.

The fig­ure fell back to £1.06mil­lion in 2017-18 but then rose again to £1.1mil­lion this year.

Yes­ter­day, the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tives re­vealed that since 2016-17, large firms based north of the Bor­der have paid £190mil­lion more than if they had been in other parts of the UK.

SNP fig­ures show that in 201819, the to­tal bill for firms pay­ing the large busi­ness sup­ple­ment is ex­pected to be £129.2mil­lion.

A spokesman for Mr Mackay said: ‘If the Tories ac­tu­ally knew any­thing about this com­pany they would know that the sole rea­son for their busi­ness rates in­crease was the multi-mil­lion pound ex­pan­sion of the plant in 2016.

‘They should spend less time play­ing pol­i­tics with peo­ple’s jobs and fo­cus their ef­forts on so­lu­tions.’ in

‘Mak­ing life dif­fi­cult’

Un­cer­tain fu­ture: Work­ers leav­ing the Miche­lin fac­tory af­ter be­ing told the en­tire staff will be los­ing their jobs in 18 months

Fi­nan­cial of­fers: Derek Mackay

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