Business rates should be devolved to directly elected mayor – Gove

Control of England’s business rates should be devolved to directly elected mayors to boost investment, according to minister Michael Gove.

Under his levelling up remit, Gove is the minister overseeing the UK government’s agenda to tackle regional inequality. And following the launch of his long-awaited policy white paper that sets out his plans to level the funding and opportunity playing fields, Gove has said in interview that he would like to see further financial autonomy given to elected mayors.

There are currently 25 directly elected mayors in England.

Some business rates spending powers are already devolving, but Gove now says he would like to direct more control to adjust the commercial property tax.  “That’s definitely the direction of travel we want to go down,” he said, noting that previous Treasuries would not have wanted such flexibility.

The 332-page white paper published last week was broadly welcomed by local governments but criticised by the opposition Labour party for lacking new ideas and funding.

Gove has dismissed suggestions that the purse strings have been shut tight by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak. “You never have everything you want, but sometimes you get what you need,” He added: “It’s important that people recognise that we’re in it for the long haul, that there’s a down payment on future investment”.

The minister also admitted the government had still to convince those who voted Tory for the first time at the 2019 election that it could deliver on the dozen levelling up objectives that will be set into law. “People are asking if the scale of ambition outlined in the missions is capable of being delivered with the resources necessary. And that’s what we’ve got to demonstrate. I don’t think there’s anyone who’s quibbling with the basic analysis of what’s required to be done.”