THE owner of a long-standing Greenock dry cleaners has blamed the burden of business rates on his decision to shut up shop.

McDonalds Dry Cleaners will disappear from the town centre as Mohammed Khan closes down his Grey Place premises.

The successful businessman took on the well known name 25 years ago but says he has struggled against the odds in recent times.

He told the Tele that he has to find £6,000 to pay the rates, on top of his rent and other overheads and this has forced him to make the decision to close.

Today he called on the authorities to take action to help small local business face more difficult times ahead.

Mr Khan, 56, said: "I just can't afford the business rates.

"It is too much and it is unfair.

"When we had the assessors in they were sympathetic but there was nothing they could do.

"I just feel that there are bigger businesses than ours who pay less in comparison to the amount of money they make.

"It is a very unfair system and needs reformed.

"The last ten years have been terrible.

"So many shops have closed, the town centre is not what it used to be.

"At the same time the cost of having a business keeps going up and the rates we pay doesn't help.

"I think something has to be done about the business rates - we are paying a lot of money.

"It is a shame because McDonald Dry Cleaners has been in the town since 1948.

"I will also give up the key cutting and party supplies in the shop."

Mohammed will now move the dry cleaning equipment into his Brisbane Street launderette, which he owns, and relinquish the dry cleaning name.

The Scottish Government sets the level of business rates for local firms while the Scottish Assessors set the rateable value for individual properties, which determines how much they need to pay.

The council are the administrators of the scheme.

MSP Stuart McMillan - who also has an office in Grey Place and qualifies for rates relief, blamed the local authority for the situation.

He said: "I would encourage Mr Khan to contact both myself and Inverclyde Council.

"The council must do more to encourage retailers to set up shop and remain on our high streets, which they have the power to do via the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015.

"It is always regrettable when any local business decides to close down.

"If any business is struggling, I’d urge them to contact me and I’ll do everything within my power to assist.

“To be clear however, the independent local assessor took the decision to set Mr Khan’s rateable value at its current level, not the Scottish Government.

"Mr Khan does receive a 25 per cent rates reduction, but unfortunately his rates have been set at a rate higher than the threshold to receive 100 per cent relief.

"A threshold has to be set somewhere and some businesses may just miss out, however since the Small Business Bonus was introduced by the SNP Scottish Government, over 100,000 small business across Scotland no longer pay any rates.

An Inverclyde Council spokesman said they recognised difficulties for businesses in the town.

He said: “"The Community (Scotland) Empowerment Act 2015 does give the council the power to set up a local business rates relief scheme but it doesn’t provide any extra cash to pay for it.”

"In this case we would advise Mr Khan to speak to his landlord about his situation and also to submit an appeal to the Scottish Assessors about the rateable value of his premises.

“Small businesses can get help with their rates from the Small Business Bonus Scheme.

“We recognise that it is a very difficult time for small businesses but, unfortunately, this is true across the whole country. It’s estimated that 14 businesses a day fail in the UK."