THE Business Rate revolution announced by the Chancellor this week has been given a mixed welcome by Lancashire politicians and business leaders, with
many warning that the “devil could be in the detail”.
North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce boss Babs Murphy issued a warning that commerce must not become a “cash cow for local government”.
Councils will be allowed to keep, reduce - and in City Mayor areas, increase Business Rates, said George Osborne.
But Babs replied: “As the Chancellor talks of a ‘new settlement with businesses’ many companies will feel like he is setting impositions rather than a grand partnership. Major changes to business rates without consulting broadly with the business communities that pay them is concerning. Businesses will certainly want assurances that greater local control over business rates does not translate to them becoming a cash cow for local government.”
Coun David Borrow, deputy leader of Lancashire County Council and finance spokesman for the County Councils Network (CCN), acknowledged the move was “revolutionary for local areas”. He said: “ We want to be involved in the discussions ...We need further details on how the system will work and how transition will take place.”
He said in any sharing of funds between local and county councils it was essential counties got a fairer share as providers of vital services and infrastructure. Local areas must respond to local business and community needs and that should include the powers to reduce rates and attract more business, but also to raise funds for vital infrastructure projects.
Coun Martyn Rawlinson, Preston Council’s cabinet member for resources “The devil is in the detail -it sounds promising and we were half expecting central government grant to be phased out anyway; however, every time this government has ‘reformed’ anything to do with local government finance we have ended up worse off. So at the moment, we will be treating this news with deep suspicion.”
Coun Peter Gibson, leader of Wyre Council, welcomed the change but warned: “As with all these things the devil is in the detail...it all depends on how it is shared out.”