The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has asked the Government to think again about its opposition to giving local (parish and town) councils a percentage slice of the business rates under the Sustainable Communities Act (SCA).
The Sustainable Communities Advisory Board set up under the Government’s 2007 Sustainable Communities Act agreed recently to support Sevenoaks Town Council’s request for its business rates proposal to be sent back to department of Communities and Local Government (CLG) to look at this again. This is the First time the Board has used its powers to ask the Government to reconsider its decision.
The Government rejected the first proposal from the town council back in early September by stating it had ‘no intention’ of giving parish and town councils a share of the business rate at this time.
So NALC believes the town council has rightly used the powers available to it under the SCA and asked the National Association to consider re-submitting the proposal on the grounds that the department’s original decision was not right.
The town council said: “The Government decision was not taken on what is most sustainable for the local community but on the grounds of protecting other authorities’ (district or borough or unitary authorities) income.”
This was a big decision for the NALC Board to take because it is the first time it has decided to re-submit a parish proposal under the Act back to the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Cllr Derek Liddell, chairman of NALC’s Policy Committee and NALC’s SCA Board, comments that: “The Board looked at the evidence given to it by Sevenoaks Town Council that the earlier DCLG decision did not appear to have been taken into account, as to what is in the best interest of the local area to improve its social or environmental well-being. It agreed with the Town Council’s understanding that the SCA was to request Government to take actions to make communities really sustainable. By reinvesting a small percentage of business rates, at no extra costs to companies and organisations who individually pay these rates, that are generated in an area back to the benefit of local people living in the same area is a major step to developing a sustainable community.
“The Association will be formally re-submitting the proposal back to CLG early in the New Year. The town council will then need to work with CLG, NALC and the Kent Association of Local Councils to produce a workable model of how a parish or town council could best use and apply a share of the business rate to make a positive difference to local economic development in its area.”
Cllr Richard Parry stated: “Sevenoaks Town Council is a medium sized town council that has always punched above its weight and was the first to submit a bid under the Sustainable Communities Act for an important change of legislation – namely a return of a percentage of the business rates to towns and parishes.
“I am delighted that the appeal process has come out in our favour and look forward to seeing this addressed in the legislative process in the coming months.”
Cllr Ken Browse, chairman of NALC, responded: “It has been an exciting year for the Sustainable Communities Act and parishes. Parish and town councils have already submitted nine proposals, and two have already been approved. The potential is enormous, but parish and town councils need support and help in unlocking the full potential of the Sustainable Communities Act, so the Government needs to listen again and act on giving a share of business rates to our sector.”