Millions of pounds set to help fund Bucks business boom

Bucks councils are expected to get millions of pounds of additional cash to invest into major growth projects, such as housing, after the county council was selected to be a part a new business rates pilot scheme.
Bucks councils are expected to get millions of pounds of additional cash to invest into major growth projects, such as housing, after the county council was selected to be a part a new business rates pilot scheme.

Bucks councils are expected to get millions of pounds of additional cash to invest into major growth projects, such as housing, after the county council was selected to be a part a new business rates pilot scheme.

Currently councils holds on to 50 per cent of taxes collected from businesses – known as business rates – and the rest goes to government for wider distribution.

However, under new government plans to change the way local councils are funded, Bucks County Council (BCC), along with the four districts, will now get to keep 75 per cent as part of the one-year pilot.

The scheme aims to encourage authorities to increase business in their area.

However, it is not clear exactly how much cash they will be getting, according to BCC leader, Martin Tett.

He added the one-off funding cannot be used to fund day-to-day services, so plans to cut the county’s children’s centres and rubbish tips to save money will continue to move forward.

Cllr Tett said: “We have agreed to share the money, so we get 50 per cent and the districts get 50 per cent and it should be worth several million to us.

“What we don’t know is exactly how much, because it is based on the growth of business rates over a period of time.

“It’s only a one off so you can’t put it back into revenue, you can’t spend it on day to day activities.

“So if someone said ‘you don’t need to close children’s centres, or ‘you don’t need to close household waste sites’ – you could probably keep them open for one more year, but actually then you face just a cliff edge because there is no money beyond that.

“You could spend it on more road resurfacing, but the government say they really want it focused towards growth, providing for new housing.

“I don’t know when we will be certain enough to say we want to spend another million on this and another million on that. It’s quite a dilemma.”

Despite the uncertainty, Cllr Tett welcomed the increase in the face of government cuts to council funding.

BCC’s budget has become increasingly strained, as this year it became the first county council, along with Dorset, to receive no revenue support grant from the government.

The government launched the pilot in 2017, with some councils retaining 100 per cent of business rates, which then continued throughout this year.

The government has extended the scheme for another year and invited further applications from councils to be involved in the 75 per cent retention pilot in 2019/20.