This is our truth, tell us yours
Did you listen to George Osborne’s speech to the #talibantories on Monday?
It had all the hallmarks of a speech based on faith not evidence; the irrational belief in its own constructs, the refusal to listen to anyone outside the congregation, and the hidden threat that anyone who dissented would be cast out.
At the heart of the speech was a policy commitment to abolish the centralization of business rates, and to distribute the proceeds directly to the local authorities who collect them.
There have been any number of policy papers by thinktanks and lobbyists on this topic. None of them were cited by Osborne, neither the ones in favour nor the ones against. There’s been no green paper on the topic, no document that could be considered by parliament, just a conference speech.
Is that how Britain should be governed? The problems of business rate retention are well-known- some councils will need only a tithe of their business rates to fund their services, and, in the worst cases, some will need three times their entire business rates pot to fund them. There was a vague promise about existing transfers remaining, but that seemed, to say the least, ill-defined. The risk is, simply, that wealthy areas will flourish while impoverished areas will get poorer.
In the background of course the government is pursuing its city deals. Corrupt and corrupting, these deals offer Whitehall services and funding to regions that agree to governance arrangements approved by the government and which give increasing power to the local business community. In the background of Osborne’s speech was the suggestion that councils would only be allowed to increase business rates if the proceeds were hypothecated to infrastructure projects, and then only with the consent of the Local Economic Partnership. LEPSsare another dirty little secret of this government, a grubby, unaccountable collection, in most areas, of placemen, shysters and tame politicians who would disgrace Mugsborough Council. To grant such a band of brigands the right to over-rule the democratically elected local authority is to admit that, in Britain,we have abandoned the concept of universal suffrage. In such a way democracy will be abolished locally, in the name of devolution.