Sunday Telegraph – check the facts please

I was disappointed and surprised to see a half page spread, promoted by a reporter written piece on another page, in the Sunday Telegraph Business section, making an unsubstantiated claim on car parking charges and containing inaccurate information regarding business rates.

The first of the claims made by Lee Manning, a top gun in the administrator business, is that councils are killing the high street through excessive car parking charges. The article, repeated at the bottom of this page, clearly suggests otherwise.

The mis-information is even more surprising, given that this man is supposedly an expert in closing down businesses that are in financial trouble. One of the core costs to any business is the business rates. Yet Mr Manning seems to be unaware that the level of business rates is determined by central government and only collected on behalf of central government by local government. The reporter written piece, quotes Mr Manning as suggesting that councils don’t care if shops close down because, “…landlords have to pay the councils the rates for the property. This means there is little or no financial impact on authorities if retailers go bust”.

Report finds parking charges are not responsible for decline of high streets

There is no conclusive evidence that parking tariffs are influencing the decline of high streets or town centres, according to a new report.
The report, entitled ‘Re-think! Parking on the high street’, finds there is no clear relationship between parking charges and the amenities on offer in an area. However, it did conclude that further research is required to ensure parking provision is planned effectively.
Research found that in 2012, 94% of all parking acts were free. Of the remaining 6%, over 82% cost less than £3 and 50% cost less that £1.
The report has been produced by the Association of Town & City Management (ATCM), the British Parking Association (BPA), Springboard Research Ltd and Parking Data & Research International (PDRI).
BPA director of policy and public affairs, Kelvin Reynolds, said: ‘This report shows the need for parking to be managed intelligently to work as intended, sometimes requiring effective management. All of this costs money and therefore, we believe that so called ‘free parking’ is not viable.’
The report also highlighted that it is unlawful for local authorities to generate income as an objective of parking management, and any surplus made is ring-fenced by law.

Local government funding cuts – the truth?

Copied from Local Government Chronicle online
Hardest hit face cuts of 15% next year
2 January, 2013 | By Ruth Keeling

Cuts to some councils’ core grant allocations could be as high as 15% next year – potentially rising to almost 40% by 2014-15 according to LGC analysis of data on the local government finance settlement.

Figures for councils’ individual ‘start-up funding assessment’ – which provides a measure of their main basic revenue streams – show an average cut of 4% next year and 9% in 2014-15.

The settlement – announced by ministers on 19 December – saw ministers focus on their preferred measure of councils’ ‘spending power’ which includes a wide range of service-specific grants and an estimate of council tax revenues and showed an average reduction of 1.7% last year.

But a detailed breakdown of each council’s individual allocation was not published until Friday the 21st – literally hours before the end of the last working day before the Christmas break.

LGC’s analysis of these figures show some authorities face cuts to their ‘start-up funding assessment’ as high as 15% next year. With cuts in 2014-15 set to be even more severe, the sector faces an average reduction of 12% over the second half of the spending review, with hardest-hit council potentially facing cuts of as much as 39%.

The start-up funding assessment measure does not take into account payments made under the New Homes Bonus, which stands to substantially benefit many district councils. Furthermore, figures for revenue streams in 2014-15 are no more than predictions as the new system of retained business rates will by then be in effect.

Those worst affected by the cuts have been offered a transition grant in 2013-14, re-badged as an “efficiency support grant” – designed to limit cuts in spending power to 8.8% but which has the effect of limiting cuts in start-up funding assessment to 15% in the first year. However, the efficiency grant is not assured in the second year and depends on whether councils make certain improvements to the way they deliver services.

Without the grant the worst hit – Great Yarmouth BC, which pulled out of a shared management arrangement following last May’s elections – will face cuts of 28% in 2014-15, creating a cumulative reduction of 39% over the two final years of the spending review period. But even councils not eligible to receive the emergency grant could be facing cumulative cuts of potentially 25%.

The table below shows authorities not cushioned by the efficiency grant will face reductions in their start-up funding assessment figure in excess of 20% over the next two years. Authorities eligible for the efficiency grant are marked with an asterisk.

Council 2013-14 % change Cumulative % change 2013-14 to 2014-15
Great Yarmouth* -15% -39%
Burnley*. -15% -38%
Barrow-in-Furness* -14% -36%
Bolsover*. -14% -35%
Hyndburn* -13% -34%
Pendle*. -15% -33%
Hastings* -15% -33%
Chesterfield -14% -25%
Preston -13% -24%
Copeland -10% -21%

‘Start-up funding’ v ‘spending power’

The new ‘start-up funding assessment’ refers to a local authority’s share of the spending control total. This SUFA figure is made up of two parts: an authority’s revenue support grant in that year and the baseline funding level as set for the start of the business rate retention funding system.

‘Spending power’ includes the start-up funding assessment and 13 other council revenue streams ranging from those affecting very few authorities, such as funding for fish conservation authorities, to more widespread items such as council tax requirement, social care funding and New Homes Bonus.

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No meat Mondays!

Is Brighton and Hove council, Britain’s first Green Party, a good example of what will happen when councils get more powers and freedom to do their own thing? Apparently, they’ve upset their refuse collectors by declaring Mondays a meat free day in the council’s canteen – along with the rest of their borough incidentally.
We all know that councils run by minority parties and groups can come with some wacky ideas sometimes, but once all councils get their hands on the business rates cash, I’ve a suspicion some mainstream ones will be following suit.
In defence of the little guys, in the past, it’s been the extreme behaviour of councils run by mainstream parties, such as Liverpool and Lambeth, that led Maggie Thatcher to centralise the business rates in the first place.

Heaven help the taxpayers!