Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Pickles backs higher local business rates share

  • Comment

Communities secretary Eric Pickles has suggested councils could keep more of their locally-raised business rates next year.

Speaking at the Chartered Institute for Public Finance & Accountancy’s annual conference yesterday, Mr Pickles said: “I’d like to increase the percentage you retain by maybe 2% or 3% in the next settlement.

“As we move towards 2020 [I’d like] to get it as close to 80% as we can.”

During the conference Mr Pickles also announced a £16m “challenge fund” for councils with “innovative” ideas for tackling fraud.

Authorities will be able to bid for two-year funding if they can “demonstrate how their proposals will recoup money owed or tighten safety nets to prevent criminals ripping them off,” a statement from the Department for Communities & Local Government said.

The minister said he wanted councils’ plans to show how they would offer “better prevention, detection or deterrents”.

He said 79 councils claimed to have no non-benefit fraud, a figure he claimed was not credible.

“Fraud costs hardworking taxpayers £2bn per year,” he said. “We are supporting councils to go further in catching fraud felons, and today I am proud to commit £16m over 2 years to ridding this scourge.”

But during a question and answer session with the minister after his speech, Guy Ware, strategic director for enabling at Lambeth LBC, told Mr Pickles: “My authority is cutting over a third of its budget. To come here and suggest the most important thing we can do is tackle fraud is either ignorance or mendacity… It’s marginal to the issue.”

Alex Folkes (Lib Dem), cabinet member for finance and resources at Cornwall Council, told Mr Pickles his authority would struggle to tackle fraud because, under government reforms, three-quarters of its anti-fraud team had been transferred to the Department for Work & Pensions.

In response, the communities secretary said: “Get off your knees and make them an offer. My advice is to simply push the envelope as far as you can. Don’t be a supplicant, be prepared to stand up for your local community, do it for yourself… Just get on with it.”

Mr Pickles urged councils to hold referendums on council tax rises. “There’s no way any government will increase the referendum threshold,” he said. “So show some courage and leadership, make the case [for a tax rise] and [if you win the referendum] you won’t hear a peep out of me.”

He also used his speech to urge councils to sell surplus assets in order to protect frontline services. “You’ve got to start asking yourself, what good is that empty office block to your residents?” he said.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.