Non-domestic property charges to be transformed.
Vacant non-domestic properties are to be brought into the water charging regime, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has confirmed.
Following a public consultation, the current exemption for vacant non-domestic properties will be removed. From 1 April 2017, all non-domestic properties regardless of occupancy will be liable for water service charges where these are connected to services.
Revenue raised by this change will be used to maintain the current freeze in business charges, as announced by the Water Industry Commission for Scotland on 20 November 2014.
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said:
"Thriving businesses underpin Scotland's economic growth and future prosperity. That's why we want to make sure the cost of doing business is kept as low as possible, while also ensuring the underpinning charging regime is fair for everyone, broadly cost-effective and harmonised.
"Following a consultation and in line with the Principles of Charging Statement, the Scottish Government will therefore introduce charges for vacant businesses and non-household properties taking effect from 1 April 2017.
"The introduction of these charges is on the basis that vacant properties benefit from water and sewerage services and should therefore pay for them. It is expected to generate some £15 million a year additional wholesale revenue for Scottish Water, allowing business charges to be frozen.
"Without such a move, charges would have to increase by 5% over the period to 2021."
Ms Cunningham also announced the Scottish Government is seeking views from the business sector about modernising the charging regime for unmeasured charges, such as surface and road drainage.
Proposals include that charges are calculated relative to the current Rateable Value-based Water Service Charges, as most recently assigned by the Scottish Assessor, rather than historic values and that changes are phased over a three year period.
The Cabinet Secretary continued:
"Today we are launching a consultation aimed at modernising the basis upon which unmeasured charges including drainage charges are calculated.
"Whilst our proposals are revenue neutral, the changes will affect the charges paid by every business in Scotland. We are therefore keen to seek views on when the new arrangements should take effect and whether any transition measures are necessary."
Owners of non-domestic properties should ensure that they are registered with a Licensed Water and Sewerage Provider. A list of providers is available at: www.scotlandontap.gov.uk.
More information about the Water Industry Commission for Scotland rates announcement from November 2014 can be found here: http://www.watercommission.co.uk/view_Market_Reform.aspx
The consultation on non-household water industry charges for unmeasured services can be accessed here: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/water-industry/use-of-rateable-value-to-charge-non-households