Headlines: November 18th, 1998

One of the leading groups calling for a change in thinking in local government has joined business in speaking out against returning full power over business rates to councils.Professor Gerry Stoker, chair of the Local Government Network, said: ‘The full return of business rates to local authority control is part of an old agenda that has to be challenged.’

He presented his point of view to a Commons sub-committee enquiry sitting yesterday at the House of Commons investigating the future of local government finance.

He said that that recent opinion gathered by the NLGN showed that people were still sceptical about councils’ ability to deliver value for money, and didn’t feel strongly that money for local services should be linked to local taxation.

NLGN is made up of senior council figures and others who want to see faster modernisation of town hall thinking. Its view is in contrast to that of the Local Government Association, which says putting the business rate back in local hands is essential to local accountability.

Professor Stoker argued: ‘The world has moved on dramatically, and it’s time for councils to think again. What matters is how money is spent. Councils can achieve more by increasing the level of influence they have in their community, which will enable them to harness the budgets of others to their own spending power, in order tackle common objectives.’