Businesses to be quizzed on devolution

Published
12/01/2015 by

Members of Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce (GBCC) are to be asked about their views on the devolution of powers from Westminster to the regions.

This week’s snap poll is being organised by British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), and is aimed at finding out whether businesses believe that devolution would have a positive effect.

The survey also wants to know whether businesses would support higher taxation, as part of a move to give the UK’s regions greater powers.

Jerry Blackett, the GBCC’s chief executive, said: “Birmingham and the West Midlands have often lost out on major investment through a lack of joined up thinking.

“However, the West Midlands has a bigger economic output than many European countries and needs a political system to reflect this. Business doesn’t recognise political boundaries.

The Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce is strongly supportive of the creation of a combined authority across the key local authorities in the West Midlands conurbation, along with a wider set of devolved political powers.

“In Greater Manchester, a deeper level of cooperation among local authorities led to greater investment; projects as such the Northern Hub attracted large-scale Treasury investment.”

On the subject of taxation, Blackett pointed out that in international terms; the UK operated a highly centralised taxation system, with only a minute proportion of taxes set at local level.

He added that the Scottish Devolution debate had re-ignited the debate about how much control the regions such have over raising tax.

He said: “The Smith Commission on Scottish Devolution recommended that Scotland have greater authority over income tax. The Chamber is campaigning for a larger retention of local taxes such as business rates and council tax but urge against the introduction of any new taxes which may risk inward investment into the region.”

In the BCC poll, businesses are to be asked specifically if they would support higher taxes if it meant more cash was to be retained and spent locally.

Blackett said that from the Chamber’s point of view, any decisions on levels of taxation in the region should involve a dialogue with local businesses to find out what system worked best.

He said the Chamber was opposed to the blanket imposition of taxes just to raise money, such as workplace parking levies. The BCC poll is being carried out on Wednesday.