Cllr Alex Williams is currently the Executive Councillor for Adult Social Care and Community Wellbeing on Trafford Council. A councillor for over 12 years, he is a former Deputy Leader of the authority and parliamentary candidate in the 2005 and 2010 General Elections.
When the Government introduced the Business Rates Incentive Scheme in April 2013 (which allowed authorities to retain a proportion of business rate growth), Conservative-run Trafford Council saw this as a huge opportunity to take control of and grow our revenue base.
We formed an economic growth team to support new start-up businesses and inward investment into the borough promoting our own ‘open for business’ message. As a result we have raised an additional £3.5 million of business rate revenue this year to support our budget and local public service reform.
Trafford is the only Conservative controlled Metropolitan council in the north of England. It is known for its outstanding schools (it retains a state Grammar and High school system) and diverse economy. It contains both Trafford Park industrial estate (founded in 1897, now Europe’s largest business park with 1,400 companies) and the Trafford Centre, the North West’s largest indoor shopping centre. Trafford is the home of Manchester United F.C. and Lancashire County Cricket Club and the Imperial War Museum North.
In March 2015, as a part of the devolution deal with Greater Manchester, George Osborne announced that AGMA and Cheshire East would be able to retain 100 per cent of additional business rate growth (rather than the current 24.5 per cent for Trafford). This was welcome but we want to go further – we’re now seeking further flexibilities to support fuller devolution of business rates, including local control over mandatory and discretionary reliefs, discounts and tax breaks.
Greater Manchester has for many years spent far more public money than it raises in tax revenues. If we are serious about our ambitions for the Northern Powerhouse, we need to reverse this. By devolving tax revenues as well as powers, we can start to address the perverse incentives of some current funding arrangements which penalise rather than reward areas that deliver economic growth and public service reform.
By incentivising local authorities to drive business growth and keep the increased tax take that results, we will not only create a fiscally autonomous, self-sustaining Greater Manchester, but a stronger, more prosperous Northern Powerhouse with Conservative-run Trafford at its heart.