Councils should be able to support local businesses – Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald

Councils should be able to support local businesses – Cllr. Geoffrey Theobald

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I noted with interest the Local Government Finance Bill second reading in the House of Commons on Monday (23rd January). I was pleased to see the debate further outline some of the significant benefits that will soon be available to Councils who will be able to retain 100 per cent of their locally collected business rates from 2019/2020 along with the removal of the Revenue Support Grant. Currently councils are required councils to pay 50 per cent of business rates income to the Government. This Bill is an important step on the road towards local council’s better supporting and encouraging business and development in their areas and I applaud the Government’s incentivising approach.

As well as the main headlines surrounding the Bill there are additional proposals which could significantly benefit Brighton and Hove. These include the introduction of telecommunications infrastructure relief which seeks to incentivise companies to bring about the installation of new optical fibre broadband with the promise of 100 per cent business rates relief for five years. Being at the forefront of digital enterprise and development is a key aim of this Council in the coming years. Access to fast and reliable digital connectivity will therefore be vital, making this incentive most welcome for households and businesses in our city.

Perhaps easily dismissed but something which I always receive significant correspondence about, the Bill also seeks to provide discretionary rate relief for public toilets to reduce the costs on local authorities of maintaining these facilities. This is something which my Conservative colleagues and I in the Council will greatly welcome as it will mean that Brighton and Hove Council can give relief to their own premises, hopefully leading to fewer having to close due to funding issues.

Overall the Bill’s range of measures to cut business rates for small businesses and local amenities will do a great deal to ensure local communities in and around our city can thrive. Politics aside, all parties within the Council should be welcoming the Bill and looking to see the ways in which we can achieve the greatest benefit from it in the coming years.

This article first appeared in the Brighton & Hove Independent on 27th January

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