Hilary Benn MP, Labour's Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary, responding to Government proposals on local government finance and business rates, said:
"The current system of local government finance and business rates – introduced by the last Conservative Government on its way to developing the poll tax – needs reforming. Labour supports a simplification that would give councils the power to encourage and benefit from growth in their area, but this is not the way to do it.
"The proposals don’t sufficiently incentivise councils to get growth going – the Treasury will take an unfair chunk of the business rates councils raise locally. There is no guarantee that some councils won't lose out. And the system put in place to help areas with greater need and low growth – like rural communities or areas with high deprivation and unemployment – does not give them confidence that they won't be adversely affected. This comes on top of an unfair change to council tax benefit that will hit the people in work on low incomes the hardest.
"This legislation is being pushed through by a Government that wants to pass the blame on to councils for its cuts which are going too far and too fast. Also, these changes are very significant and trying to rush them through by the summer simply isn't sensible.
"Eric Pickles should think again and work out a better system that will lead to good services for local people."