Car body shops in Scotland are continuing to appeal for the same COVID-19 business rates relief as their retail counterparts across the country.
The National Body Repair Association (NBRA) is continuing to appeal on behalf of its members more than four months after the coronavirus pandemic delivered it lockdown to the UK economy and traders in the sector.
NBRA director, Chris Weeks, said: “NBRA calls on the Scottish Government to provide clarity on the retail grant scheme and allow all body repair shops to access the relief.
“The work that body shops do in keeping vehicles in a roadworthy condition is crucial to keeping Scotland’s roads safe. Ensuring these businesses remain viable through the COVID-19 crisis is therefore essential.”
NBRA has written to Ben Macpherson MSP, Scotland’s Minister for Public Finance and Migration to seek clarity on the Scottish Government’s view of the eligibility of body shops for the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Business Grant scheme (RHLBGS) and the 100% Non-Domestic Rates holiday for retail.
The cut-off date to apply for the RHLGS closed on the July 10, however NBRA members in Scotland report having an inconsistent experience with accessing support from local authorities.
Whilst some are able to access government funds earmarked for retailers, bodyshops in other local authorities are being rejected.
Sandy Burgess, chairman of the Scottish Motor Trade Association (SMTA) highlighted the issue when talking to AM about car retailers’ delayed restart to showroom trading early last month, and little has changed.
Burgess said at the time: “Across Scotland, the relief seems to be at the mercy of local authorities and few seem to know what their official stance should be. It’s an inexcusable situation with so many businesses struggling with the trading environment right now.”
The NBRA said that, although garages were among the retailers permitted to remain open during the COVID-19 lockdown, a “massive decline in motor vehicle use and the subsequent decrease in demand for body repair services” meant that the majority of body shops closed.
It said that accessing retail grants and relief will be vital to ensuring the viability of body shops as lockdown begins to ease.
Weeks said: “We have been advising NBRA members facing rejections for government financial relief to continue to appeal to their local authorities.
“Now that the deadline to apply for financial relief has closed, car body repair shops in Scotland are now relying on the appeals process to ensure they can sustain their businesses whilst motor vehicle use remains low.
“Local authorities across Scotland must apply this relief evenly and consistently to ensure a fair business recovery.”