Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:39 pm on 7th February 2018.

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Photo of Sajid Javid Sajid Javid The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government 4:39 pm, 7th February 2018

The hon. Lady’s local authority, Bath and North East Somerset, was part of a business rates pilot in 2017-18. As I said, we have extended that pilot, which gives the local authority the ability to take advantage of that and put in place incentives for local businesses to see growth. The council estimates that it can see millions of pounds of extra income from that, which I would have thought she would support for her local community.

The business rates pilots will help to test the system, to see how well it works in different areas and different circumstances. The purpose of the pilots was to have a broad distribution across north and south, urban and rural, and small and large. The pilot areas will keep 100% of the growth in their business rates if they expand their local economies, which is double what they can keep now. I can confirm that I will open a further bidding round for pilots in 2019-20 in due course. In expanding those pilots, we have responded to what councils have told us, and we are doing the same in other areas.

Rural councils express concern about the fairness of the current system, with the rural services delivery grant due to be reduced next year. In response, I can confirm today that we will increase that grant by £31 million in 2018-19. That is £16 million more than was proposed in the provisional settlement, taking the total figure to £81 million—the highest amount ever paid in rural grant, at a little over the sum paid in 2016-17.

We recognise that the so-called negative revenue support grant is causing concern. Changes in revenue support grant have led to a downward adjustment of some local authorities’ business rates top-up or tariff for 2019-20. We know we must address that problem, and we will consult formally on a fair and affordable set of options for doing so, with plenty of time to reflect on the findings before next year’s settlement.

Following discussions with the sector, we are continuing with the capital receipts flexibility programme for a further three years. That scheme gives local authorities continued freedom to use capital receipts from the sale of their own assets, to help fund the transformation of services and to release savings.