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Business rate reforms must aid business council leader says

Essex County Council leader David Finch has called on Government to give local councils additional flexibility in setting business rates.

Rates are currently collected by the local council, but in the Government’s Autumn Statement in November it was announced that from 2020 Council’s would be able to keep the revenue gained.

Speaking at a Government inquiry into future reforms of business rates Cllr David Finch said: “We welcome these devolved powers as we believe decisions should be made at the most local level, but we need to ensure that local government has a strong voice in helping shape what the reformed system looks like.

“The money that will be coming into local authorities isn’t new money, and our worry is that any reforms to rates must ensure they are still used to support business growth and enable all our local areas to prosper.

“We are therefore calling on Government to involve local Government at every level, creating a system and powers that will take advantage of council’s ability to react to local issues, and also demonstrate to business that this money is being used to do what it should be doing, aiding business growth.”

At the meeting he outlined four key asks:

>> Give local authorities the power to change the multiplier, raising or decreasing rates in order to respond to business needs and support specific industry sectors ;

>> Look again at how the rates are determined to ensure businesses with no or low property values make a fair contribution ;

>> Give Councils the power to provide localised small business rate relief

>> Improve engagement with business.

Cllr Finch added: “Giving more local power will not only give councils the ability to react to local needs, but will improve engagement with business leaders, giving them more influence in investment decisions and demonstrate more clearly how the money they are being taxed is supporting economic growth in their community.”