The Ship Inn Irvine: SNP will not push reassessment of business rates

The main SNP administration has said it will not ‘jump with both feet’ to back a move that Labor says will help the historic Ship Inn in Irvine reopen sooner.

Labor councilor Robert Foster posed the question to SNP councilor Tony Gurney during a full council meeting on Wednesday September 21, discussing the site’s “utterly ridiculous” annual fees.

Irvine’s oldest pub, which dates back to 1567, has remained closed since the death of one of its owners, Jamie Murray, in July 2020.

Upon reopening, The Ship is expected to pay historic commercial rates of £71,000 a year – a figure which Labor advisers say does not take into account their current, redeveloped position.

These redevelopments include the upstairs part of the site which is no longer used as a reception area – and it will be removed from the licence.

The unions believe that these activity rates must be settled as soon as possible.

Councilor Robert Foster said: ‘The importance of the Ship Inn to Irvine Harborside cannot be underestimated. For decades, The Ship has been an integral part of the port experience.

“It has been closed for over two years and yet they would have to pay historic commercial rates of £71,000 a year to reopen.

“With £14 million of public money set to flow into Harborside as part of the Great Harbor project, supporting local businesses in Irvine Harborside has never been more important.

“With the cost of everything else going through the roof and the significant investment being made to renovate the building, it is utterly ridiculous that the Ship Inn’s business rates are not being reassessed to provide a fair reflection of its current position.”

Although the North Ayrshire Council does not have a 100% say in the situation, revaluation decisions rest with the Ayrshire Valuation Joint Board (AVJB).

Cllr Foster asked Cllr Gurney if he would: “Join me in writing to the AVJB to express these views and the importance of the Shipp and ask them to reassess the assessed value of this as soon as possible.”

Cllr Gurney replied: ‘Unfortunately Councilor Foster I will not be doing this as we have governance in place to set rates and this is through the AVJB and as you know we are represented on this joint council .

“And I would warmly recommend that he speak to his colleagues who are attending on behalf of the council.

“We have governance structures in place for everything we do, and the temptation is always to jump in with both feet whenever the next issue applies and change those governance structures for a person, a company or a organization.

“It tends to lead to poor leadership, poor governance and poor administration of any board.

“So while the council and its commercial team will do everything in their power to help with the new ownership of the Ship Inn, rates and their valuations, rightly, are the responsibility of the Joint Valuation Committee, and they should stay there.”

Cllr Foster told the Time“The Council should help the owners of the Ship Inn to reopen. It is incredibly disappointing that the SNP cabinet member did not even send a letter to the Ayrshire Valuation Joint Board asking them to reassess the companies’ rates.

While in an earlier part of his response, Cllr Gurney discussed measures that would support the reopening of the historic business.

He said: ‘In terms of the support available from this council, the building has listed building status and has therefore had 100 per cent empty ownership relief since 1 April 2021.

“Previously, as part of the pandemic support measures, for the 2021/22 financial year, the property automatically received 100% hotel and leisure relief again.

“When the property reopens for trading, the taxpayer would be entitled to apply for the 12 month fresh start relief and again this would provide 100% relief from the first day of trading.”

However, it appeared that the availability of this fresh start might not be as straightforward as Cllr Gurney made it out to be.

The council’s website states, in reference to this relief: “To qualify for this relief, the rateable value of your property must be £65,000 or less.”

With the assessed value of the Ship Inn being placed at £6,000 above this figure, an exception to the usual rule of thumb would have to be made for the venue to receive this relief.

However, after approaching Cllr Gurney about the matter, The Times can confirm that this website was ‘outdated’ and that figure should now be £95,000.

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