Region to scoop millions as councils team up to pool business rates growth

Pateley Bridge is one of many communities that could benefit from the new pooled business rates growth scheme.
Pateley Bridge is one of many communities that could benefit from the new pooled business rates growth scheme.

A combined bid by local authorities across North and West Yorkshire to retain most of its business rates growth to invest locally has been approved by the government.

The successful bid to create the North and West Yorkshire Business Rates Pool will mean that the existing pool partners of Harrogate, Leeds, York, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield will be joined by Craven, Hambleton, Richmondshire, Ryedale, Selby and Scarborough councils, along with North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), in a pilot pool scheme to retain 75 per cent of all business rates growth in a combined fund.

Over the next financial year, the expanded pool is predicted to generate £19m of funding, with a third to be retained by the pool and the rest going to member authorities. The authorities within the region could stand to gain up to £22.6m, as so-called tariff authorities like Leeds also retain levy amounts which otherwise would be payable to government.

The previous Leeds City Region business rates pool was established five years ago and was approved for the current financial year to trial keeping 100 per cent of the growth in business rates for the member council areas of Harrogate, Leeds, York, Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield.

The pool funding is used collaboratively on investments and projects to help drive and support regional economic growth. It particularly focuses on reducing digital isolation, inclusive growth, culture, sport and major events, business support, trade and investment and enabling new housing.

Previous investments have included projects supporting and coaching business start-ups and SMEs, those promoting inclusive growth and schemes delivering improved internet connectivity and skills development.

The new expanded pool area has a population of 3.1 million people and an annual economic output of £70.3bn, with 1.4 million jobs and 137,000 businesses. At almost 4,000 sq. miles it covers 8 per cent of England.

For the current financial year the Leeds City Region pool was able to be part of a pilot to retain 100 per cent of business rates growth for the year, but for 2019-20 the percentage able to be retained by pilots is reduced to a maximum of 75 per cent. In preparation for this, the new pilot bid was presented with an expanded membership including more authorities across North Yorkshire.

Coun Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, the lead authority for managing the business rates retention pool, said: “While we are disappointed the percentage we were able to retain has fallen, we are pleased that our bid has been approved and we are determined to ensure the money is put to good to use driving economic growth for the benefit of the people of North and West Yorkshire.

“We have already proven when we combine our skills and resources the results can be spectacular, as shown with the amazing Tour de France Grand Départ, and the approval of our bid will enable us to work even more closely together to support the whole region to grow and offer opportunities for the benefit of all.

“The previous Leeds City Region pool was one of the most successful in the country and this wider pool with our new partners will enable us to do even more.”

Coun Carl Les, Leader of NYCC, said: “This is a really significant example of collaborative working. Together we have developed an approach that will both promote economic growth and support many services that the public values most.

“We have been charged with being innovative and forward-thinking in our continuing efforts to provide high-quality public services in the face of reducing budgets and I believe that is exactly what we have done.”