The government has been urged to be more local and more radical in its approach to localising business rates in order to help communities fund the growing range of local services provided by local councils.
In their response to a consultation on business rates, the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has told the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) its current approach should extend beyond principal councils in scope to provide local councils with a 5% share of business rates generated in their area to enable them to invest in neighbourhood level services for residents and businesses and alleviate the current pressure on the parish precept, their primary source of income.
Research conducted by Local Government Chronicle (LGC) last year as part of a special report on parish and town councils showed almost 80% of local councils in favour of retaining some of the business rates raised in their areas, with over 1,200 councils stating they were already involved in economic growth. The survey also included economic growth as being among the top ten services councils wanted to add to their remit, with others including youth services, highways, housing, health and well-being and tourism.
NALC's response to the consultation also calls on the government to:
recognise the pressure on funding local and neighbourhood level services through the parish precept through a package of supportive measures;
include piloting the retention of business rates with some parish and town councils in the existing pilot scheme from April 2018;
support tourism, economic development and public health by legislating for mandatory rate relief on public conveniences owned or managed by local councils;
build on the approach taken to charities by legislating to provide local councils with mandatory rate relief on community facilities they own or manage including cemeteries.
Chairman of NALC, Cllr Sue Baxter said: "The new government should change course on this important issue and truly put the local into the localisation of business rates. I have written to the leaders of the main political parties asking them how they will put communities in control of their areas and shift more power down to local people in General Election manifestos. Extending the scope of business rate localisation to local councils would be one way of achieving just this”.