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Kent councils to pilot scheme where they keep money collected from business rates

By Caitlin Webb, local democracy reporter

Kent councils have announced plans to spend £35.8 million of money received from business rates as part of a retention pilot.

Kent County Council, Medway Council and 12 district and boroughs are among the first in the country to retain 75% of the tax collected on properties used for businesses.

The county is one of 10 chosen to take part in a national pilot to test out the possibility of local authorities taking the funds rather than central government.

Councils in Kent will be able to spend money collected through business rates
Councils in Kent will be able to spend money collected through business rates

This comes after the Government shared its intention to eventually hand all these funds over to all councils in the country.

However to do this areas must demonstrate how the retention can operate across more than one council and ensure they can manage the finances.

According to a KCC report: "The expectation is that some retained income from growth will be reinvested to encourage further growth across the area."

All the cash will be shared into a Financial Sustainability Fund and a Housing and Commercial Growth fund, which will be divided into areas and between local authorities.

KCC is expected to receive £10.5 million, Medway Council could collect £4m and a £10.5m will be shared between the boroughs and districts.

A further £10.7m will go towards supporting further growth as part of three clusters: west, east and north Kent.

How business rates money has been allocated in Kent (4041799)
How business rates money has been allocated in Kent (4041799)

Local authorities in east Kent plan to set up a housing and investment company with their £4.4m share.

Darford, Gravesham, Maidstone, Swale and Medway councils plan to spend £4.7m on a selection of projects including development of business space for start-ups and transport hubs.

Swale Borough Council spokesman Philip Sutcliffe said: "The business rate retention pilot gives us the ability to deliver proposals to boost commercial growth in the borough.

"The plans are still being finalised, and we’ll provide further updates once they are agreed.”

A two-year business support programme has been formulated in west Kent as part of a partnership between Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge and Malling councils.

Plans include a scale-up project and a enterprise adviser network to help new business owners.

Remaining funds in west Kent will go towards town centre improvements.

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