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West Midlands Combined Authority to scrap business rate hike

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Board is set to drop plans to levy an additional tax on companies in the region.

The WMCA board is expected to formally drop plans for 4% business rates supplement when it meets on Friday (July 26).

The proposal had been discussed for a number of years as a way to fund the Metro and other transport, housing and regeneration projects.

According to the WMCA, dropping the plans will mean businesses in the region will avoid paying out an additional £34m per year, provided it is agreed later this week.

The WMCA board, chaired by the mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street has the power to raise a business rate supplement to invest in new infrastructure projects, if it is approved in a vote of businesses across the region.

The combined authority said will continue to seek further funding in order to invest in transport, housing and jobs in the region through a range of channels including the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, which is being set up to replace EU structural support after Brexit.

‘I am delighted that I have been able to give this commitment not to increase business rates for businesses in the West Midlands,’ said Andy Street,

‘I have spoken often about the impact business rates are having on the high street and on manufacturers, and I am glad that we have agreement across the WMCA that this additional tax is unnecessary.

‘The West Midlands has come together to bring in more money from government and is looking to attract private sector investment. As we leave the EU, we will push to secure funding which is coming back from Brussels,’ he added.

Last month, Mr Street called for town centres to be turned into ‘free trade zones’ to help struggling high street shops.

Speaking in front of the treasury parliamentary select committee, he said the current business rate system must be overhauled in order to help town centres.

Cllr Bob Sleigh, WMCA portfolio holder for finance and cabinet member for resources at Solihull Council, said: ‘We are able to avoid adding to the burden on business because the WMCA has been successful in attracting funding from government, including investments worth £1.8 billion since May 2017.

‘Our existing schemes and commitments are already funded. Going forward we will continue to seek funding from government and alternative sources to develop future plans to invest in people, transport and the economy to take the region forward.’

Photo Credit – rawpixel (Pixabay)

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