More action is needed to bring empty Crawley shops back into use - according to Conservative councillors.
Chancellor George Osborne announced a major shake-up to the way business rates are spent earlier this month, which could see local authorities keep all the receipts rather than passing half back to central Government and also gain the ability to lower them.
The move was welcomed by Crawley Borough Council’s Conservative Group as it claims areas with a ‘dynamic and growing economy’ such as Crawley ‘disproportionately lose out through the current system’.
Duncan Crow (Con, Furnace Green), leader of the Conservative Group at CBC, has submitted a motion due to be discussed next week which calls on the council to look at options arising from the business rates changes to boost both the local economy and town centre.
Mr Crow said: “My Conservative colleagues and I did very well in bringing the £3m Queens Square regeneration scheme forward, but many people ask why the current Labour council doesn’t do more to bring the empty shops in the town centre back into use?
“Having local control over business rates will give us options to lower business rates that could help bring these empty shops back into use and improve our town centre for everyone.
“The council needs to look at the bigger picture to improve the town centre and not just at how much money the council will generate for itself.”
Last week Peter Smith, CBC’s cabinet member for economic development, gave ‘qualified support’ to the business rates changes, as Crawley generates a large proportion of business rates in the area.
But he said it ‘would not be the first time that a big promise turns out to be less money for Crawley’.
Mr Crow’s notice of motion reads: “Local business rates are set by central government at a uniform national rate.
“They are collected by local councils and transferred to central government to be distributed back out across the country. Local councils such as Crawley Borough Council, which represent areas with a dynamic and growing local economy, disproportionately lose out through the current system.
“As a local authority that welcomes the transfer of decision-making powers from central to local government, this council resolves to:
1. Write to the Local Government Association to state its support for the principles of greater local retention of locally-collected business rates and of greater local control over the setting of business rates;
2. Carefully examine the detail of the proposal in the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s Autumn Statement to change the business rates regime and as a result of these changes, look for potential opportunities to benefit the local economy;
3. Consult with the Crawley business community to seek their views on the proposals to change the business rates regime and on the current levels of business rates payable;
4. Explore the potential that lowering business rates could have on reducing the number of empty shops in Crawley town centre.”
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