Sir Howard Bernstein speaking at last year's MIPIM international property convention. The UK's in-out EU referendum is likely to be a hot topic in Cannes next month
Sir Howard Bernstein speaking at last year's MIPIM international property convention. The UK's in-out EU referendum is likely to be a hot topic in Cannes next month

Rates pilot income could reach £35m

The plan to retain 100% of business rates growth in Greater Manchester as announced in the Chancellor's Budget is due to be approved on Friday.

Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council, has drafted a report ahead of the special joint meeting of the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities and the Combined Authority on 27 March outlining how the pilot scheme with Cheshire East Council would benefit the area, with an income of around £35m predicted for the next three years.

In the report, he said: "The scheme announced by Government enabling 100% of business rates growth within the GM and Cheshire East Business Rates pool is a welcome development and a further endorsement of Greater Manchester's strategy to become financially self-sustainable. Treasurers have been briefed on the details of the scheme. As there is no downside risk to what is proposed officers recommend that the scheme proposed by the Government is endorsed."

If approved by AGMA, each of the 10 districts within Greater Manchester will need to meet to endorse the scheme.

The pilot is due to begin from 1 April 2015.

Greater Manchester and Cheshire East agreed to establish a business rates pool for 2015/16 earlier this year. According to Bernstein, "whilst future levels of business rates income is difficult to predict", if the pool achieves a 0.5% growth target each year until 2018 then the pilot scheme could generate more than £35m for each local authority.

Bernstein stresses that the pilot is the first stage in Greater Manchester's progression towards full fiscal devolution.

He said: "An important first step is the retention of a greater level of business rate income to promote economic growth.

"Further discussions would be required on how any additional income would be allocated and used and how this will promote the growth priorities within the region. The whole emphasis of the Greater Manchester Strategy has been to support growth and to encourage reinvestment to drive that growth, with particular reference to investment in housing, skills, business expansion and job creation."

A report into how the pilot can contribute to the growth strategy is expected to be brought back to the AGMA and GMCA in the coming weeks. Greater Manchester will also hold talks with Cheshire East on its investment priorities, including the development of a Life Sciences Fund.

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