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Tory council set to fund union's legal battle

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Conservative-led Derby City Council is set to fund a union’s legal bid to force ministers to overturn its decision to send a £1.6bn train order overseas, the Financial Times reports.

The council will vote next week on whether to support Unite, if it presses ahead with a judicial review of the award of the contract for Thameslink trains to Siemens of Germany rather than Bombardier, which owns the last trainmaker in the UK.

Bombardier made 1,400 workers redundant after losing the contract in June.  

Council leader Philip Hickson (Con) said all three parties had agreed the move.

He said: “The issues transcend party politics. I have to do what is best for the city. It could wipe out every job we have created in the last 10 years. It would also force us to depend on train imports. The jobs would never come back.”

Finance experts have argued the future of the Bombardier site could have a substantial impact on the amount of business rates the council can raise – which under new proposals for councils to retain their rates could have a negative impact on funding available for services.

The Association of North East Councils (ANEC) voiced concerns earlier this year that moving to a rates retention model could encourage councils to give sites to retail or commercial developments because their higher rental value generates more rates than small business and manufacturing sites.

Citing manufacturer Bombardier, Newcastle City Council treasurer Paul Woods, who advises ANEC on financial matters, said councils could be placed under pressure to chase bigger rate payers rather than consider which sectors should be encouraged to move in.

Mr Woods told LGC the new system could be in place by the time new tenants were found for the Bombardier site. “Will the council have an incentive to put a supermarket there? This is one of many unintended consequences that have not been thought through.”

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