Scottish councils could have the power to cut business rates by the end of the month, under plans announced today.
Deputy first minister John Swinney has also proposed that local authorities will be able to keep all the funds they raise in business rates once the reforms come into effect on 31 October.
The news comes after chancellor George Osborne last week revealed English councils would be allowed to cut and retain locally raised business rates in return for the loss of the revenue support grant. Under the proposals, only mayors would be able to increase rates under strict parameters.
However, Mr Osborne’s plans are only set to come into effect by 2020.
The Scottish order, which uses powers under the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, means councils will be able to reduce rates based on criteria of their choosing such as the type of property or its location.
Mr Swinney said: ‘The Scottish Government is committed to giving communities real control over their own futures. This substantial new power, which will give councils more control over business rates, and an opportunity to tailor them to their local area.
‘We have already set a strong platform nationally by delivering the most competitive business taxation in the UK. For example the Small Business Bonus Scheme alone reduces or removes business rates for more than 96,000 properties.
‘With these new flexibilities councils could, for example, use their local knowledge to attract new investment into town centres and help create vibrant communities where people want to live, socialise and do business.’
Cllr Kevin Keenan, finance spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), said: ‘COSLA welcomes the new business rate provisions in the Community Empowerment Act and while COSLA’s ambitions are much greater we see this as a positive start to the journey on increasing local flexibility of funding and taxation powers for councils.’