The Local Finance Bill – an ambitious programme for localism

The debate over local government finance has had a relatively low profile but it could effect radical changes to the political geography of this country. We welcome the ambition behind the plans after decades of consultation and debate which has more often than not led to dither and delay.

The Government has listened to concerns about the equalisation of local rates with proposals for top-ups, tariffs and levies. However, many people within local government are anxious about how the scheme will work over time and   whether the top ups will retain their value. Others fear a permanent hierarchy between rich ‘tariff councils’ and their poor relations the ‘top up councils’.

Certainly, we look forward to further details of the levels at which tariffs and top ups will be set.  It is essential for local government to have confidence that these proposals will provide them with a stable foundation at a time of financial uncertainty.

Nonetheless, localists should welcome the ambition behind the plans.

Giving locally elected councils real powers and incentives to shape local economies is a crucial step towards re-energising local democracy and a long overdue recognition of the key role that local councils have in economic development, especially at this crucial time in the nation’s economic recovery.