Crawley councillor raises concerns over business rates plan

Queens Square, Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150720-221703008

Queens Square, Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150720-221703008

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Crawley council’s cabinet member for economic development has raised concerns over Government plans for local authorities to keep their business rates.

Peter Smith (Lab, Ifield) said he gave ‘qualified support’ to the proposals because of fears over how much of the tax would be handed over to West Sussex County Council.

jpco 12-11-14 Peter Smith outside Three Bridges Station. The council has been given �1million to revamp the road/forecourt layout at Three Bridges Station. (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-140611-132241001

jpco 12-11-14 Peter Smith outside Three Bridges Station. The council has been given �1million to revamp the road/forecourt layout at Three Bridges Station. (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-140611-132241001

Chancellor George Osborne announced councils in England will be able to keep the business rates raised in their area at the Conservative Party conference on Monday (October 5).

Local authorities currently keep up to half of the rates, with the rest going to central government.

Mr Osborne said the change would allow councils to cut the rates and was due to be in place by 2020.

Mr Smith said: “It would not be the first time a big promise turns out to be less money for Crawley.

“We produce far and away the majority of the business rates in the whole area.

“If it does what it says on the tin it could be a good thing for Crawley.”

Most of the town’s business rates has been going to central government and the county council.

Under the plans, the Government’s tariff system for supporting areas with lower levels of business activity will not be changed.

Mr Smith said: “At the moment there are very complicated arrangements.

“The tariff is used to redistribute business rates around the county - that’s why I give qualified support, because if that’s removed it would be clearly good for Crawley.

“The key figure for us is how much we retain.”

Mr Smith said the retention and greater control of its rates would make the council more accountable to local people on how the town improved its economy.

He said the key economic issues were the business area in Manor Royal running out of space due to demand and the regeneration of the town centre.

He added: “It’s good to have a direct link between business and the borough council and Crawley tax payers.

“Crawley Borough Council and this administration have been very business friendly.”

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