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Year 2, Week 22
Community councils, full council, the freeport, and tax on self-catering properties ...
Nominations have now closed for community councils and the news is not good for the Nairn and Cawdor ward. Of the five community councils three: Cawdor & West Nairnshire, East Nairnshire, and Nairn West & Suburban failed to attract half the maximum membership so won't be established for the new term.
The other two, Auldearn (8 of 9) and Nairn River (7 of 12), did get at least 50% so will continue but there will be no election and they can co-opt if they wish to top up their membership.
East Nairnshire was already not operating but the loss of Cawdor & West Nairnshire and Nairn West & Suburban, both very active community councils, will be sorely felt.
The next opportunity for nominations to be made to those community councils which failed to get the numbers will be in January 2024 and hopefully Cawdor & West Nairnshire and Nairn West & Suburban will reform as they were only one under the minimum required membership this time around but East Nairnshire had no one step up to be a community councillor so I fear we will continue without community council for the southern end of the ward.
In closing I should mention that the current community councils remain in existence until this Tuesday and Cawdor & West Nairnshire already had a meeting planned for this Monday night at 7:30pm at Cawdor Community Centre so that meeting is going ahead, which will give the community a chance to discuss their plans going forward. You’re more than welcome to attend.
Full Council - both resumed …
After the very long full council a couple of weeks ago failed to complete its business we resumed on Tuesday and completed the agenda. Lots of items considered including the council’s response to council tax on second homes, long-term empty properties and Non Domestic Rates for self-catering units; higher multipliers for council tax bands E and above; and a proposed Human Rights Bill for Scotland.
We also considered a proposal to stop candidates putting poster boards on lamp posts at election time. We are one of only four councils in Scotland which still allows this. This has come to council multiple times over the years and last time the vote was close but this time there was a clearer majority in favour of continuing to allow it.
The voting on this was interesting: the SNP group had decided to collectively vote for the retention of boards, the Lib Dems had a free vote and I saw members vote both ways, I think the Tories had agreed to vote to ban boards - certainly those members whose vote I heard anyway. The surprise, to me at least, was the independents. You’d think it was in their interest to ban boards as it’s mainly a party thing, but a lot of independents voted for them to continue to be allowed.
Full Council - … and new
Immediately before the resumed council meeting we had another full council meeting which was already in the diary. This was where council had an update on progress of Inverness and Cromarty Firth Green Freeport. This was public and you can watch it online here. It’s well worth a watch if you have the time just to get a feel for the size of this project and, if it works, it will fundamentally change the whole region heralding a return to the days of the oil boom for the inner Moray Firth.
We then went into private session to agree that the Outline Business Case for the freeport could be submitted to the Scottish and UK governments. This was a confidential session and so there’s very little I can say on it publicly but I did ask questions on behalf of the ward and I think I’ve got the reassurances we need to ensure we get the best for Nairnshire.
Non Domestic Rates on self-catering properties
If you have a self-catering property which you run as a business and claim non domestic rates then you should be aware that the law in Scotland has changed and The Assessor is currently reviewing the status of all such properties to determine whether they should be levied Non Domestic Rates (NDR) or Council Tax (CT).
To be levied NDR rather than CT, your property now needs to be available for let for 140 days in each financial year and you need to provide evidence that the property has been let for at least 70 days.
If you fail to provide evidence that a property meets the requirements to remain in NDR, the Assessor may automatically transfer the property to CT. Also bear in mind that this change in legislation means transfers to CT will be applied retrospectively to 1st April 2022.
A lot of properties are potentially affected and The Assessor is working their way through them at the moment so you may not have heard from them yet.