The Government has decided that in 2020, business rates, currently valued at £23bn nationally, will be paid to local authorities rather than delivered to central government as they are now. Written by Adrian Hawkins, Co-founder & Chairman biz4Biz, Chairman Weldability Sif (established 1925), Director & Trustee of the Weldability Sif Foundation, Main Board Member Herts LEP, Chair of the Skills and Employment Board, Chairman and Trustee of the Hart Schools Trust.
This single act ensures a much closer relationship between the local authority and the business sector, an aspect of localism which is long overdue. This should lead to a much closer relationship between the local authority and the business community such that the two parties find some real opportunities to co-ordinate their needs and support the local community. This aspect, combined with a locally elected mayor or county leader, joining together the various activities of our ten local authorities, would be an exceptionally positive step towards making our hugely successful county regain its prosperity and maintain its inclusive nature, both aspects relevant to us all.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation have created an “inclusive growth monitor” for measuring the need for a balanced relationship between poverty and growth and I am delighted to report that Hertfordshire sits at sixth in 39 LEP areas across England for prosperity (previously fifth) and fourth for inclusion (previously sixth), demonstrating both high prosperity and high inclusion. Prosperity is measured in terms of human capital, employment and output growth, whereas inclusion is measured in terms of income, living costs and labour market exclusion. We are truly fortunate to be at the forefront of maintaining this balance.
It should be possible to ensure this success is ongoing if we couple these aspects with a desire to take control of central government spending for Hertfordshire. Clearly aspects of welfare spending and educational investment can be closer aligned and savings made if responsibility to provide higher standards of education in schools can be co-ordinated with the Labour market, working alongside employers and reducing the eventual cost of welfare.
It is probably because we are so successful as a county currently, that makes the decision around devolution that much harder to make in Hertfordshire. However, the methods adopted by government for future distribution of funds favouring devolved authorities, is also an aspect that should not be ignored in maintaining the balance.