In response to yesterday’s Local Government Finance Settlement announcement, Cllr Neil Clarke MBE, chairman of the District Councils’ Network (DCN), said: “It is reassuring to see that for the first time in many years there have been significant improvements between the provisional and final settlement. We commend those changes.
“We particularly welcome the decision to row back from the concept of ‘negative Revenue Support Grant’ for 17/18 and 18/19 and we would encourage efforts to introduce the new 100% business rate retention scheme early to take care of subsequent years.
“The extension of the right to charge 2% or £5 to all councils is a step forward towards local decision-making. Taken together with the 2% adult social care precept, it represents a welcome shift in approach over the setting of council tax.
“Similarly there is good news on the rural support grant with an additional £60m being found.
“We also welcome acknowledgement that planning fees needs to be addressed. Let’s hope the forthcoming consultation is realistic about the real terms gap that has emerged over the years. The way the statement on planning fees is framed clearly signals the importance ministers place on the performance of planning departments.
“Whilst we should acknowledge the way the Secretary of State has responded to these concerns it is still true to say our member authorities remain very concerned about the community incentives for house building and vigorously report to us their belief that the big house builders are improving their profit margins at the expense of a reasonable community dividend.
“Ultimately that could prove counter-productive to the laudable ambitions to build more homes.
“The DCN is fully prepared to step up to meet the challenges of the new system for financing local government through the move to full retention of business rates and other growth-related funding schemes.
“In particular, we will be putting the case that district councils wish to continue to deliver growth and will fully engage in the current consultation on New Homes Bonus to ensure that proposed changes to incentives and rewards do not prejudice the Government’s ambitious housing targets.”