Walker welcomes business rates retention pilot

Robin Walker, MP for Worcester, has happily welcomed good news for Worcestershire, following the announcement from the Ministry for Housing, Communities, and Local Government (MHCLG) that the county has secured a one year 75% business rates retention pilot scheme that is worth over £4 million of revenue to the County. Members of the Worcestershire pilot poll can now retain this much needed income from business rates, and their participation in the programme will be invaluable, as the Government is working towards improving business rates retained by Local Government as they look ahead to 2020-21.

Interest in the scheme was such that MHCLG decided to bring forward 15 new pilots, increasing the number of pilots included in the programme, and due to the high volume of quality applications the Ministry had to ensure that a variety of pilots would be created in a range of areas across the country to inform local government finance reforms.

The news follows the Autumn Budget, which provided further reductions in business rates since the 2016 Budget which will save firms over £12 billion over the next five years. Having campaigned for business rate relief and reform throughout his parliamentary career, Robin welcomed the Chancellor’s announcements in the Budget. As a former member of the Business Select Committee, Robin called for a report into high streets and the future of retail and heard from a number of Worcester business owners about how important it is to ease the burden of rates on small retailers, as well as improving the system of rate revaluations. Robin reiterated his support for further business rate relief in a letter to the Chancellor in November.

The Secretary of State for MHCLG, the Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP gave a statement to Parliament last week, and further detail for Worcestershire was provided by the Minister for Local Government in a recent letter to Worcestershire County Council.

Worcestershire County Council Leader, Cllr Simon Geraghty said:

“This is really good news for Worcestershire. It will mean that more of the business rates generated by a growing and successful local economy will stay in the County. These are challenging financial times for all councils who have responsibility for caring for the most vulnerable in our society but working with our district council colleagues we will now be able to invest more into initiatives that help to limit the increases in future social care costs in Worcestershire.”

“We believe the Business Rates pilot will generate over £4 million for the County and so it is very welcome. Together with the one off extra grants of £2.4 million for NHS winter pressures and £4.1 million for social care pressures, this has been a better settlement for Local Government for 2019. It comes on the back of an extra £6.6 million for highways and £2.4 million for this year’s winter pressures.”

“Our focus next year will move onto the Spending Review and the 2020/21 & beyond settlements as whilst very good news these are one off monies and so the key issue will be to get the demand led pressures around social care as a key driver of cost recognised in the new needs based formula MHCLG is designing for Local Government. Happy to work with Robin closer to the time to brief on the key evidence we are producing from County Councils around the review of the LG formula and Spending Review.”

Commenting on the above, Robin said:

“This news, just before Christmas, is a huge boost for Worcestershire County Council and I am so pleased. I have been in no doubt about how challenging it has been for councils to drive efficiencies as they contributed to helping rebuild our economy, and tackling the deficit, and I am very grateful for their hard work. Having campaigned on business rate relief and retention for many years, and repeatedly taken up this issue with my Ministerial colleagues, the announcement gives our local authorities powerful incentives to increase their revenue streams.

“Under the current scheme, councils estimate that they will receive around £2.4 billion in business rates growth in 2018-19. Given the competition, Worcestershire County Council has done incredibly well to secure their place in the scheme, and it’s a testament to the County Council and their District Council partners for their collaborative hard work and contributions.”

Notes to Editors:

For Robin’s previous releases on business rates:

http://www.walker4worcester.com/?s=business+rates

For further detail from the Chancellor’s Budget Speech regarding the further reductions in business rates:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/budget-2018-philip-hammonds-speech

To read more on the pilot scheme from the Secretary of State’s recent statement to parliament:

https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/provisional-local-government-finance-settlement-2019-to-2020-statement