North West council set for business rates multi-million windfall?

There were always going to be winners and losers in the Government’s decision to devolve 100% of business rates to local authorities, but one of the earliest to declare a financial victory would seem to be Cumbria.

Councils in West Cumbria, it would seem, are set to keep all the business rates that result from the nuclear new-build at Moorside, Sellafield.

Ministers were proposing that Whitehall should keep all the rates received from Moorside, where NuGen plans to build the UK’s biggest nuclear power plant. This would have amounted to several million if you think that Sellafield’s annual rates bill stands at £32m.

The question was raised by Sue Hayman, Labour MP for Workington, at the PM’s Question Time last week and she has now received a letter confirming that local authorities will indeed retain all business rates resulting from the nuclear new-build.

The assurance has been welcomed by local politicians on both sides of the fence, but before the Councils start dusting off their credit cards, the project is still some years away from becoming reality. In fact, NuGen has still to make a final decision on whether to proceed with the Moorside project. If it does then works could begin in 2018 onwards.

So, perhaps a bit premature to crack open the bubbly just yet as any new rates revenue will probably only go to fill part of the financial hole made by the budgets cuts of recent years. However, regardless of whether Moorside gets past the finishing line, it will be interesting to see which other large private sector or infrastructure projects across the UK will result in projected business rate windfalls for other cash-starved LAs.

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