I wrote the below letter to the Ham & High and Camden New Journal this week on the matter of my ongoing campaign to secure discretionary Business Rates relief for Assets of Community Value. It’s long, so I don’t expect they’ll print it, but here you go in full:
Camden Council is agreeing its annual budget this coming week. Each year, councillors have to assess how best to achieve value for money: giving the maximum benefit to local residents for the lowest cost.
Given that, Camden would be mad not to jump at the chance to put money back into our community and bear just 30% of the cost. And it has an opportunity to do just that.
Under the Localism Act 2011, councils have the power to reduce Business Rates for particular kinds of businesses. The cost of doing so is mainly borne by central government; despite 100% of the benefit accruing in our borough, Camden bears just 30% of the cost.
I proposed at last month’s Council meeting that Camden uses this power to grant Business Rates relief to Assets of Community Value (ACVs). Sadly, the meeting did not reach my motion, but the budget gives Camden another chance.
To become an ACV, these beloved community institutions must already be proven to “further the social wellbeing or social interests of the local community”. ACVs include a panoply of premises across Camden, from Pentameters Theatre in Hampstead to the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury, including 17 pubs.
I support granting ACV status, as it gives communities a vital lifeline when their facilities are threatened and keeps buildings in use by the community.
But landlords – often the people that give value to the community – can be hurt by it, as the protections it affords can reduce the freehold value. Cutting Business Rates for ACVs balances out this burden and creates an incentive for good community behaviour.
Camden’s ACVs pay approximately £600,000 in Business Rates a year. A 25% discount would cost Camden taxpayers just £45,000, but save local community businesses £150,000 – and give a big incentive for more businesses to support community activities to become ACVs.
Camden has a chance to give back to the Assets of Community Value that give us so much – and bear just a fraction of the cost. If the Council is serious about seeking value for money and supporting our communities, it should take it.
For more about my campaign to support local businesses, click here.