Expanded business rates pilot scheme approved for North & West Yorks

Expanded business rates pilot scheme approved for North & West Yorks
Credit: Shutterstock.com/ Castleski

The Government has approved a combined bid by local authorities across North and West Yorkshire to retain most of its business rates growth to invest locally.

The successful bid to create the North and West Yorkshire Business Rates Pool will mean that the existing business rates pool partners of Bradford, Calderdale, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York will be joined by Craven, Hambleton, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Selby and Scarborough councils along with North Yorkshire County Council in a new pilot pool scheme retaining 75% of all business rates growth to go into a combined fund.

Over the next financial year, the expanded pool is predicted to generate £19 million of funding, with a third to be retained by the pool and the rest going to member authorities.

The authorities within the region could stand to gain up to £22.6 million, as so-called tariff authorities like Leeds also retain levy amounts which otherwise would be payable to government.

The previous Leeds City Region business rates pool was established five years ago and was approved for the current financial year to trial keeping 100% of the growth in business rates for the member council areas of Bradford, Calderdale, Harrogate, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield and York.

The pool funding is used collaboratively on investments and projects to help drive and support regional economic growth. It particularly focuses on reducing digital isolation, inclusive growth, culture, sport and major events, business support, trade and investment and enabling new housing.

Previous investments have included projects supporting and coaching business start-ups and SMEs, those promoting inclusive growth and schemes delivering improved internet connectivity and skills development.

The new expanded pool area has a population of 3.1 million people and an annual economic output of £70.3 billion, with 1.4 million jobs and 137,000 businesses. At almost 4,000 sq miles it covers 8% of England.

For the current financial year, the Leeds City Region pool was able to be part of a pilot to retain 100 per cent of business rates growth for the year.

For 2019/20 the percentage able to be retained by pilots is reduced to a maximum of 75%. In preparation for this, the new pilot bid was presented with an expanded membership including more authorities across North Yorkshire.

Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, the lead authority for managing the business rates retention pool, said: “While we are disappointed the percentage we were able to retain has fallen, we are pleased that our bid has been approved and we are determined to ensure the money is put to good to use driving economic growth for the benefit of the people of North and West Yorkshire.

“We have already proven when we combine our skills and resources the results can be spectacular, as shown with the amazing Tour de France Grand Départ, and the approval of our bid will enable us to work even more closely together to support the whole region to grow and offer opportunities for the benefit of all.

“The previous Leeds City Region pool was one of the most successful in the country and this wider pool with our new partners will enable us to do even more.”