Local devolution popular among English businesses

More than 4 in 10 businesses in England are in favour of greater devolution of decision making to the local level, according to a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC).

The poll of more than 1,300 English firms found that 42% would like to see greater powers handed to local councils. However, 26% think that increased council autonomy would have negative consequences.

The surveyed businesses identified several benefits that devolution would bring to local areas:

  • 58% think simplifying local government would increase accountability and efficiency
  • 51% want voters to be able to participate in local economic decisions
  • 67% believe devolution will boost transport investment
  • 58% think it will lead to better apprenticeship funding and delivery.

However, many firms are not in favour of devolving tax-setting powers to local government. Almost a third (30%) think they would end up paying more tax if rates were set by local councils. Just 34% support paying higher tax rates if the money is retained and circulated locally.

The BCC is calling on the future government to enable business ratepayers to have a vote on local business taxation changes.

John Longworth, director general of the BCC, said:

"Businesses don't support devolution for devolution's sake. However, they support greater local decision-making if it means greater efficiency, greater accountability and better results.

"Our proposal for a ratepayers' vote on local economic development strategy and funding decisions would ensure that plans for an area's future have the support and input of the whole business community."

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