Clause 10

Part of Business Rate Supplements Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 27th January 2009.

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Photo of John Healey John Healey Minister of State (Department of Communities and Local Government) (Local Government) 5:15 pm, 27th January 2009

The hon. Member for Ludlow was not with us at the start of our proceedings this morning, when we had a detailed discussion on the principal basis on which it is right to hold a ballot on a BRS. In particular, we discussed why, in this respect, our approach to BRS is different from our approach to BIDs. On BIDs, of course, every business in the proposed area will have a vote, irrespective of size, and may make a contribution. I do not propose to rerun the arguments for our proposals for balloting on BRS, but no doubt the hon. Member for Ludlow will be able to consult the Official Report and come back if he feels that we have not dealt with the issue.

On the concern expressed by the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst, if the variation changes the proportion that the BRS contributes to a project from a fifth to a quarter—as he suggested—or to 30 per cent., we still propose to take the approach with the variation that is entirely consistent with the one that we take for the ballot for the BRS in the first place. I explained in my opening remarks the safeguards that are in place for businesses and the requirements that will be in place for local or levying authorities in such circumstances.

In response to the hon. Gentleman’s concern about cost changes, whether they come from cost creep or optimism bias or any other factor that might come into play, he may be interested to know that there is a requirement in paragraph 23 of schedule 1—we have already debated that schedule—for the local authority, in producing its prospectus for a business rate supplement, to consider carefully and to consult on the policy that it would have if the project were to

“(a) cost more than the authority was expecting;

(b) take more time to complete that the authority was expecting;

(c) cost less than the authority was expecting;

(d) take less time to complete than the authority was expecting.”

No business will therefore be in any doubt about the approach that the authority anticipates taking in such circumstances. I hope that that reassures the hon. Gentleman and enables him to accept that the clause should stand part of the Bill.