All 1 Baroness Watkins of Tavistock contributions to the Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) Act 2021

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Thu 4th Feb 2021
Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) (No. 2) Bill
Grand Committee

Committee stage:Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords & Committee stage

Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) (No. 2) Bill

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 4th February 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Non-Domestic Rating (Lists) Act 2021 Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: HL Bill 146-I Marshalled list for Grand Committee - (1 Feb 2021)
Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committee (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 1. I remind noble Lords that anybody wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate.

Amendment 1

Moved by
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Lord Greenhalgh Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (Lord Greenhalgh) (Con)
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My Lords, I first point out my residential and commercial property interests as set out in the register.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for raising the points highlighted by his proposed new clause. The business rates system is unusual among taxes because its implementation is split between the Valuation Office Agency, which is an agency of HMRC, and local authorities. Many noble Lords have, like myself, experience of working in local government and know and understand how important the relationship is between the VOA, local authorities and my department in running the business rates system.

As the Committee would expect, one of the issues raised in our discussions with local government has been how revaluations impact on local government funding, so I am grateful to the noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Thornhill, for tabling their amendment on that subject.

In relation to the provisions of this Bill, we have worked closely with the VOA to ensure that a revaluation in 2023 can be delivered on time. The antecedent valuation date of 1 April 2021 was set by a statutory instrument laid on 6 August last year, since when the VOA has been preparing for the revaluation. It has already started to collect the information it needs to value 2 million properties and is on target to complete the exercise to plan.

As I discussed at Second Reading, Clause 1 also moves back the latest date by when the draft rating list must be published before the revaluation to no later than the preceding 31 December. In practice, we expect this to be around the time of the autumn fiscal event, when the multiplier and the transitional relief scheme are also announced. That will mean that rating lists will come to local government a little later than previous revaluations, but we do not expect this to mean any delays in the process of billing or estimating business rates income.

Local government of course needs the multipliers and details of relief schemes before it can calculate liabilities, and it is only once that full package is confirmed that bills can be issued. That is the case whether we are in the year of a revaluation or not. Nevertheless, I can assure my noble friend Lord Bourne and the Committee that my officials meet representatives of local government regularly and will continue to discuss these matters with them to ensure the smooth delivery of business rates bills.

More generally, my department and the VOA are continuously looking at how we can improve consultation and closer working with local government. In recent years the VOA has introduced a data gateway under which it is able to share information about ratepayers with local authorities in order to support the billing process, and last year we made regulations empowering local authorities to provide the VOA with information on a quarterly basis about the properties that ratepayers occupy. This was introduced with the support of local government and will ensure that the VOA has up-to-date information ahead of 1 April 2021, which is the intended valuation date for the 2023 revaluation.

One specific matter we have discussed with local government is how to reflect in the local government finance system the changes in business rates income at revaluation—and I recognise that this is the matter on which the noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Thornhill, seek reassurance through their amendment. The purpose of the revaluation is to ensure that business rates bills reflect the up-to-date rental value of properties.

This of course means that some ratepayers will see increases and some will see reductions as a result of the revaluation, and it follows that the business rates income for individual local authorities will fluctuate in the same way. Some local authorities will see their business rates income rise at the revaluation and others will see it fall. Between revaluations, local authorities can increase their business rates income by supporting growth and investing in their area. Their share of this type of growth is retained by them through the rates retention scheme.

In contrast, the changes we see in local authority income levels at the revaluation come mainly from the trends and variations in the wider national economy and the commercial property market. These factors are largely outside the control of individual local authorities and the Government’s view is that such changes in business rates income levels at the revaluation should not feed through into local government budgets.

Therefore, our intention—as it was at the previous revaluation in 2017—is that we will, as far as is practicable, ensure that retained rates income for individual local authorities under the business rates retention scheme is unaffected by the 2023 revaluation. For the 2017 revaluation we achieved this by adjusting the tariffs and top-ups in the scheme to reflect the change in income at the revaluation. We consulted local government on the mechanics of these adjustments from as early as the preceding summer. This was a collaborative process and one which we intend to repeat for the 2023 revaluation. This process will give local authorities the budget assurances they need regarding revaluation. As such, the timing of the revaluation and how it affects the distribution of business rates income should not impact directly on local government finances.

I hope, therefore, that I have reassured the Committee on the degree to which my department and the VOA work closely together and in partnership with local government on business rates matters, and on the steps we will take to protect local government finances at the time of the revaluation. These working relationships are important, and we are indebted to those in local government who offer their time and expertise to support us in running and improving the rating system.

I hope that, with these assurances, the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Pinnock and Lady Thornhill, will agree not to press their amendments.

Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
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I have received no requests to speak after the Minister, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy of Southwark.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions to this short debate. In particular, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Greenhalgh, for his full response on the issues raised by the two amendments. I will read the noble Lord’s response carefully before considering whether this is an amendment to which I will wish to return on Report.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, made a compelling case for her amendment and set out the difficult situation in which local authorities find themselves. We will come to amendments later on regarding appeals, but the noble Baroness highlighted the real problems that are faced today. The noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, raised further important points and questions that, again, we may need to come back to on Report. However, at this point, I am happy to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 1 withdrawn.
Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
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We now come to the group beginning with Amendment 2. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate.

Amendment 2

Moved by
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Amendment 2 withdrawn.
Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Watkins of Tavistock) (CB)
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My Lords, we now come to the group consisting of Amendment 3. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate.

Amendment 3

Moved by
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Amendment 3 withdrawn.
Baroness Watkins of Tavistock Portrait Baroness Watkins of Tavistock (CB)
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We now come to the group consisting of Amendment 4. I remind noble Lords that anyone wishing to speak after the Minister should email the clerk during the debate.

Amendment 4

Moved by