MONEY collected from businesses in Somerset will be controlled in the county, it has been announced.

Somerset County Council (SCC) has been included in the new tranche of 15 local authorities to be given control and retention of their Business Rates, which could be worth millions to the authority, which faces stiff financial challenges amid funding cuts from central government.

The change is also expected to give the council flexibility to support certain areas or types of business with rates reductions or exemptions.

The announcement has come as part of the provisional Local Government Settlement, announced today, which sees a 2.8 per cent cash increase for Local Authorities with funds specifically to help social care and the Rural Service Grant to recognise the costs of service delivery in rural locations.

Leader of the county council, David Fothergill, said in a tweet: "Fantastic news that Somerset has been selected to be one of the Business Rate Retention pilots from across the country.

"A lot of hard work and effort has really paid off."

Somerset County Gazette:
Cllr Fothergill thanked all of the county MPs for their work

Yeovil MP Marcus Fysh has been campaigning for Somerset to be included in the trials since the policy was announced.

He said: "Lots of councils want to be a part of these trials; we pitched hard to be included last year but just missed out so I am delighted at this announcement.

"Decisions on rates and spending are best made at a local level and this gives the chance to be more flexible in supporting our high streets and businesses."

Taunton Deane MP Rebecca Pow said she had worked with local stakeholders, and engaged in many high profile meetings with Ministers, as well as meeting with the Prime Minister herself.

She said as well as control of Business Rates, Somerset will receive an increase in core spending of 3.7% through the settlement.

"I am delighted that Somerset has been included in the new round of business rates retention pilot which should make a significant contribution to Somerset County Council’s budget," she said.

"Keeping more of the money raised locally makes sense.

"This allocation comes following the hard work put in including a joint approach with three other Somerset MPs to make the case for more funding for rural areas: Marcus Fysh, James Heappey and David Warburton.

"Although this doesn’t solve all the problems, it will help to deliver much needed services and I am pleased the department for MHCLG have listened."

However, the Local Government Association said councils face another 'hugely challenging year', despite the funding changes.

Chairman of the LGA, Lord Porter, said: “Next year will continue to be hugely challenging for all councils, who still face an overall funding gap of £3.2 billion in 2019/20.

"It is therefore disappointing that the Government has not used the Settlement to provide further desperately-needed resources for councils next year.

"Many councils will be forced to take tough decisions about which services have to be scaled back or stopped altogether to plug funding gaps.

"We must not forget that it is individuals and communities who feel the impact, whether it is through seeing their local library or leisure centre close, roads deteriorate or support for young people, families and vulnerable adults scaled back.

"It is vital that the Government uses the final Settlement next month to provide the further resources needed to protect our local services in 2019/20 before ensuring next year’s Spending Review delivers a truly sustainable funding settlement for local government.

"As the nation continues to face huge uncertainty, it is councils who are getting on with the job of providing the services that matter to our communities.

"Investment in these local services, and councils’ prevention and early intervention work, is the only way councils can continue to make a positive difference to their residents’ lives.

"It will also help reduce pressures on the rest of the public sector, save money for the public purse and contribute to the wider prosperity and wellbeing of the nation."