THE BLOG

Councils Need to Be Confident on Business Rates

18/03/2016 15:47 GMT | Updated 19/03/2017 09:12 GMT

Is George Osborne entirely responsible for the economic fortunes of families and businesses up and down the country? Watching coverage of the Budget you may believe he is. I disagree.

While far too many decisions are taken in Westminster, devolution is giving people far away from Downing Street the chance to shape their own destiny.

Take business rates, which are due to be completely localised. Yesterday George Osborne announced a cut in business rates for the smallest firms, although he failed to explain what the impact will be on local authorities' finances. Haringey has gone one step further than the Chancellor by cutting business rates by 30 per cent for firms, large and small, who move into our borough.

Our business rate cut will make a huge difference to hundreds of firms in Haringey. It'll save small businesses around £1500 a year. And large firms will save around £15,000 a year. And it will attract firms to take advantage of the affordable workspace, highly skilled workforce and great transport links in Haringey.

Our business rate cut shows how those outside Westminster can stand on their own feet and make a real difference to people's lives. And it's an important signal to the wider world that Haringey is pro-business, open for investment and on the up. Just last month an independent report found Haringey will see the fastest jobs growth over the next 20 years, faster than Westminster or the City of London. We are determined to ensure our residents are at the front of the queue to take advantage of the huge jobs growth in the coming years with every school in Haringey rated good or outstanding and new opportunities for residents to learn about science, tech engineering and maths skills (STEM).

Every council has been hit hard by funding cuts over the past six years. Haringey has seen a 40 per cent cut of £190 million over eight years. As brutal as the cuts are, I reject the idea that the measure of success is managing decline better than your counterparts. To me that's a complete betrayal of the people we were elected to represent. The days when councils could plead deprivation and special circumstances and hope for a larger handout are gone, especially if we are not willing to seize every lever at our disposal to change the economic landscape and improve the life chances of residents.

That's why this week Haringey has become the first council in country to cut business rates for new firms. It's why we are delivering the biggest regeneration programme in the country and it's why we launched a STEM commission chaired by Baroness Sally Morgan to make sure every Haringey resident has the chance to learn new science, tech engineering and maths skills.

If Councils want the responsibility for the places they serve, then the sector needs to stop beating itself up, and behaving like it is helpless to act. We need to be confident, show leadership, embrace competition, and take command of our future.