Brent Conservative councillor says business tax changes will be good for the borough
PUBLISHED: 14:44 12 October 2015 | UPDATED: 16:58 12 October 2015
A warning that the government's plan to allow local authorities to keep business rates could create a £150million "black hole" for Brent Council' has been dismissed by a Conservative councillor.
Cllr Joel Davidson, councillor for Brondesbury Park, rejected the claim made by council leader Cllr Muhammed Butt last week who said he could be forced to carry out more cuts if the plans go ahead.
Cllr Butt told the Times the government could be “abdicating responsibility” for services in Brent as the chances would see the council lose a vital £50m top-up grant it currently receives.
The difference in opinion comes in the wake of Chancellor George Osborne’s plan for local authorities to keep all rates collected from local businesses instead of current rules under which the council pays 50 per cent back to local government in exchange for the £50m grant to support poorer boroughs.
Cllr Davidson said the plans could attract more businesses to the borough and create much-needed jobs.
He said: “There is no doubt this is a positive thing for Brent.
“The Chancellor’s announcement gives Brent the power to retain revenue from business rates and makes it more attractive for businesses to come and create jobs. It’s an opportunity, not a threat.
“It’s very negative for Cllr Butt to say it risks a massive shortfall when it’s offering Brent autonomy and responsibility for business rates.
“What I’d like to see is how Cllr Butt will now go about attracting businesses to Brent.”
Cllr Davidson, who runs a small accountancy firm in Brent, said the Chancellor’s plan may lead to small shortfall at first but will offer greater-long term stability for funding in the borough as rates can be lowered, encouraging small and medium sized businesses to regenerate areas like Old Oak Common, Kingsbury and Queensbury.
He added the reform will prompt a borough-wide strategy for bringing businesses and jobs into Brent, and said: “From a budgetary perspective it’s much more sustainable for the council to have control over business rates instead of uncertain funding from central government that could be cut.”
Cllr Parvez Ahmed, councillor for Dollis Hill and business campaigner, said he was more cautious in his support for the proposal as it would need greater help for small and medium sized businesses.
The Labour councillor, who has run his own business in Kilburn High Road for 30 years, said: “Keeping business rates is a good initiative because it places more control in the hands of businesses on the high street.
“Right now, we are being victimized and getting no help from local government. There are very simple ways the council can help them, and eventually bringing down business rates could be one of them.”
Cllr Ahmed echoed Cllr Butt’s note of caution about the precise details of the plan and warned that continued top-up grant support would be needed to ensure Brent doesn’t fall behind richer boroughs in the city of Westminster, who last year collected £1.8 billion in business rates compared to Brent’s £100m.