Devolution backed by businesses

A new survey from the British Chambers of Commerce shows that businesses based in England want more decisions taken in town halls – rather than Whitehall.

The results from than 1,300 firms show that 42% believe greater devolution to their local area would have a positive impact on their business; a quarter think it would have negative consequences.

However, businesspeople remain sceptical about tax-setting powers being handed to councils.  A third expect their tax bills to rise if set locally, while 18% expect to pay less tax.  SMEs are more likely to expect to pay additional tax, compared to large organisations.

Simplifying local government (58%) and giving ratepayers a vote on local economic strategies (51%) are seen as the most effective methods of increasing accountability and the effectiveness of Councils.

Key findings:

Appetite for devolution

  • 42% say handing more powers to local government will have a positive impact – 26% negative

Sceptical about local tax-setting

  • 30% would expect to pay more tax – 18% who expect to pay less
  • 34% support paying higher taxes if the money is retained and spent locally

Efficiency and accountability to improve

  • Simplifying local government (58%) and giving ratepayers a vote on economic strategies (51%) are seen as best for increasing accountability and efficiency of local government
  • The majority of businesses surveyed anticipate the greatest positive impact from devolution to be on transport investment (67%), and apprenticeship funding and delivery (58%)

To ensure businesses are placed at the heart of local growth, the BCC’s Business Manifesto is calling for the next government to:

  • Guarantee a business ratepayers’ vote on local economic strategy, including a vote on any proposed changes to local business taxation – ensuring that plans for an area’s future include input from business.

John Longworth, Director General of BCC, said:

“Businesses don’t support devolution for devolution’s sake. They support greater local-decision-making if it means greater efficiency, greater accountability and better results. A ratepayers’ vote on economic strategies and funding relies on support from the business community.  As various parties’ election manifestos have acknowledged, boosting the growth prospects of England’s cities and counties must be a priority for the next government. Yet devolution must work for business if local areas are to see sustainable growth and job creation for years to come.”