The Local Government Bill, published for consultation in June, has been revised following intense lobbying, particularly by the Local Government Association. Although the Government argued that the draft Bill was not aimed at creating more power for the center nor putting new burdens on councils, proposals to merge the central government grant and business rates have been dropped. Powers for the Secretary of State to make statutory instruments, which would have given more power to the center, have also been axed.The LGA opposition to merging the central grant and business rates was based on their aim to have the current national business rates set locally, to reflect local circumstances. In addition, the funding merger would have broken links between councils and the businesses in their area.
The Bill that will now go forward and form part of the Queen’s Speech next week will give councils more freedom, including new borrowing powers. It will provide opportunities for innovation and working together with local business. The councils awarded a top star rating in the shortly to be announced Comprehensive Performance Assessment will be given greater scope to trade in goods and services and they will be allowed to develop innovative approaches to service delivery.