Wednesday, September 17, 2014

News: Council income to drive economic development

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Staff working in economic development at Rotherham Council have been given a new objective in addition to creating jobs for local people and the regeneration of deprived communities - generating income via an increase in business rates and Council Tax.

Local authorities are under intense pressure to make savings. Rotherham Council's latest budget included a £23m savings package put together in response to further massive reductions in Government funding. £70m has been cut from its budget since 2010 with £20m plus savings needed next year too.

Local councils collect Non Domestic Rates (business rates) from the owners and occupiers of commercial properties on behalf of central Government. Rotherham Council reported a collection rate of 98.2 per cent for 2013/14 which resulted in £73.5m being collected compared with £71.5m the previous year.

The Government introduced a business rates retention scheme from April 2013 aimed at providing a direct link between business rates growth and the amount of money councils have to spend on local people and local services. Under the new scheme, Rotherham Council will be able to keep a proportion of the business rates revenue as well as a proportion of the £2m of revenue growth.

A recent scrutiny review by borough councillors into how the council can support the local economy outlines its first recommendation as ensuring that the emerging Growth Plan is focused around two key objectives – income generation and employment creation.

A multi-disciplinary "Task Force" is proposed to bring together council teams working in economic development, regeneration, business support, housing, transport and education with the key purpose of providing a "coordinated holistic approach to generating investment and economic growth in Rotherham, for the benefit of its local businesses, communities and residents. The focus should be on working both internally, and in partnership with the private sector in Rotherham, to include a range of projects in terms of size and value."

A key piece of work for the Improving Places Select Commission, Cllrs Wallis, Beck, Atkin and Jepson met with council teams, partners and the private sector to discuss the issues.

The scrutiny review adds: "During the last ten years many Government quangos and agencies involved in economic regeneration and skills development have come and gone, as have many different funding regimes. The review group noted that the only constant during this period of rapid change has been local government. They therefore, potentially have the best area of influence over social and economic problems.

"Currently the conditions for growth are right – the Council needs to be ready for this and to consider ways in which more of their available resources can be targeted towards the growth agenda. If most of the resources are spent on welfare and supporting the vulnerable this will not be sustainable in the longer term and Rotherham will have missed an opportunity to invest in the future of the town's economy."

The review points to areas that the Council can influence effectively, including the strategic management of land supply (including its own assets), high profile leadership from the Council and work with the private sector and partners, fostering more enterprising and aspirational attitudes and adopting a more business friendly approach.

Images: RMBC

3 comments:

Anonymous,  September 17, 2014 at 10:24 AM  

At last, the penny has dropped:-

"If most of the resources are spent on welfare and supporting the vulnerable this will not be sustainable in the longer term"

Anonymous,  September 17, 2014 at 11:04 AM  

Will the recent report into the council's blatant failings regarding child sex abuse make it harder to gain political support for taking resources away from welfare and supporting the vulnerable?

Anonymous,  September 17, 2014 at 6:53 PM  

You are probably right, but you cannot help the poor and vulnerable if you don't have any money. Create the wealth (and the jobs)first, so that you can help the poor and vulnerable to permanently rise from their lowly position.

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