A CLAMPDOWN on the blight of empty business properties will net cash-strapped Scottish Borders Council £765k over the next financial year.

New rules introduced by Scottish Government enables local authorities to retain business rates charged on non-domestic empty properties, of which there are currently 627 in the Borders.

Empty premises, both domestic and non-domestic, are often a blight on local communities and town centres.

They can often have detrimental impact on both residents and other businesses.

Now a policy is to be adopted from April 1 this year to limit the rate relief on any non-domestic empty properties to 50 per cent for three months, followed by 10 per cent for nine months – after which no rate relief will be awarded.

The biggest impact will be on those empty properties currently entitled to an unlimited 100 per cent rate relief exemption.

It was felt that receiving 100 per cent relief gave little incentive for these owners to bring properties back into use.

Now it is hoped the reduction will persuade them to do so.

The policy change also allows for some of these properties to be converted for residential use.

Meanwhile, £765k for the forthcoming financial year will be added to the council’s coffers as a result – money which can be ploughed back into services.

When members of the council met on Thursday (January 25), the tax change was endorsed.

Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, executive member for service delivery and transformation, said: “This means we will be able to raise much-needed revenue, which will help us support services, but much, much more importantly this is a really useful tool to help tackle the blight of empty properties.

“Some of these properties could come into use as businesses, some will actually get their lights on and brighten our town centres, where very often long-term empty properties are a blight, some of them will go into productive use and help to create jobs and enterprise.”

The change was also recently adopted by Dumfries & Galloway Council.