In 2010 he saw rates for his business, and five other nurseries in West Fife, rise by 150 per cent, taking his annual rate up from £20,700 to £51,750. Mr Cameron put the unprecedented rise down to the rates not being applied on a level playing field.
What Mr Cameron describes as a ‘David v Goliath’ battle began, with Lauriston Nursery, Building Blocks in Rosyth and others campaigning to get rates reduced for local childcare businesses.
‘In 2010 we knew the rates were going to go up. However, there was no way we could have budgeted for an increase of over 150 per cent,’ he said. ‘This resulted in nurseries in the Dunfermline area paying over 50 per cent more in rates than if we had opened up a new facility in George Street in Edinburgh.
‘Over the past few years we have been banging on every door possible trying to get answers. However, the assessors are blaming the Scottish Parliament for setting the criteria for the increase in rates and the Scottish Parliament blaming the assessor for their interpretation of the criteria for the increase.’
In 2012 Mr Cameron launched an e-petition demanding that action be taken to ensure business rateable values were calculated using accurate information relative to the size and location of the site.
‘It appeared that the rates assessors had based their calculations on the rental information provided by the tenants, but not all tenants had provided this information,’ he said. ‘Even when tenants had provided it the rates assessor did not have the manpower to check the information supplied was correct.
‘There was also the fact that companies such as ourselves, who had invested in new property, were being held at a distinct disadvantage. It appeared that nurseries operating from old converted houses received a 30 per cent discount while those based in a portable building received 60 per cent.’
In December, a renewed joint appeal on behalf of the nurseries successfully secured a significant reduction on the rateable value of their properties. This involved enlisting the help of a professional surveyor and a QC to represent the case, at significant cost.
Despite the victory Mr Cameron resents the time and money he has spent on the appeal. ‘It still leaves a bitter taste having to spend a lot of time, resources and financial outlay to obtain a level playing field for our business and ensure that companies in Dumferline and the surrounding areas are not subsidising companies in other areas within Fife.’
He added, ‘Fife Council have a slogan – “Fife, the best place to do business”. But their actions and prejudices would make you think otherwise.’