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Local Government Finance

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:26 am on 3rd April 2001.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Liberal Democrat Whip 10:26 am, 3rd April 2001

There would need to be a mechanism for redistributing the moneys raised, so that deprived areas could be compensated, or given additional grant. That is why we are talking about, say, 80 per cent. of the money required to be raised locally and 20 per cent. raised centrally, with which we could achieve the sort of redistribution to which the hon. Gentleman referred. That would be achieved over a transitional period, so there would not be a heavy impact in year one.

The Government favour trials. We have had some interesting trials on voting procedure, with postal votes and allowing voting to take place in supermarkets, for example. Will the Minister consider allowing local authorities to use different methods of taxing businesses, for example? Many local authorities suffer, as mine does, from businesses or property owners who leave retail premises in prime high street locations empty year after year, waiting for I know not what. In a prime location in Wallington, the premises of what used to be a pizzeria have been empty for about 10 years. Can local authorities be given the flexibility to target empty retail premises and get them back into use, rather than leaving them vacant for many years?

I hope that the Minister will give local authorities financial freedom and responsibility and that he will respond positively to my radical proposals.