More business rates pilots announced

The Government has invited more councils to apply for powers to retain the growth in their business rates under new pilots, which will see the local authorities rewarded for supporting local firms and local jobs.

The invitation to apply to take part in business rates retention pilots in 2019-20 is open to local authorities in England.

The pilots will build on the Government’s commitment to continue to give local Government greater control over the money they raise. The aim is to increase the level of business rates retained by local Government from the current 50 per cent to 75 per cent in April 2020.

The pilots will look at authorities’ administration, technical planning for implementation and system maintenance. It will also look at how the accounting, data collection and IT systems could work.

However, many businesses dislike the idea of the local authority being given more control over business rates amid fears that small firms are being treated as “cash cows” by councils.

This follows a disclosure by the Daily Mail that almost half of the councils in England are using a private firm to sift through satellite images and examine retailers’ premises.

There is widespread condemnation of the business rates system, with one member of the Treasury Select Committee saying that the current system is inadequate and “unfair to bricks and mortar businesses”. While a spokesman for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said councils should be “competing to create the most pro-business, low-tax regime to attract more businesses”.

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