Local authorities should be given powers to
levy at least a proportion of business rates in their area to help bring
government closer to the people it represents, the Commission on London
Governance has heard.
Michael Snyder, Chair of the Corporation of
London’s Policy and Resources Committee, said the move would help improve local
accountability. He drew on the Corporation of London’s experience of this under
its existing arrangements, which enable it to levy a small premium for
Businesses needed to be more involved in
their local communities and should be given more say over the level of business
rates and how the money is spent. However, Mr Snyder emphasised at a Commission
meeting earlier this week that the Corporation’s unique status, with its high
concentration of businesses, meant that its model of decision-making could not
be directly transferred to other local authorities with a more diverse
Mr Snyder, who is also a member of the
Association of London Government’s Leaders’ Committee, voiced strong support for
the principle of subsidiarity – devolving powers to the lowest tier of
government capable of exercising them effectively.
The Corporation of London’s primary role to
maintain the City as one of the world’s leading financial and business centres
depended on the delivery of world class public services, particularly with
regard to transport, security and the provision of sufficient office space, he
said. In order for the City to continue to prosper there should be minimal
involvement from both regional and central government.
Planning and transport were two areas that
particularly needed greater devolvement of power. London boroughs should be
responsible for the day-to-day management of most of London’s roads, rather than
Transport for London, to help increase accountability. Similarly, whilst the
Mayor of London should have strategic planning powers, planning decisions should
largely be made at borough level and central government should only intervene on
matters of national importance.
Cllr Hugh Malyan, Chair of the Commission
on London Governance, said: “This is a powerful call for councils to be allowed
to collect business rates, coming from the Chair of the Corporation of London.
Mr Snyder draws on the Corporation’s experience to highlight the added
accountability this could bring and raises some interesting points about the
role of businesses in local communities.
“He has presented a convincing argument on
the need for more power to be devolved to local level and although his evidence
to the Commission relates largely to the Corporation of London, much of it
clearly has a wider application. His views will enliven the debate on governance