Consideration was given to a report of the Director of Finance which presented to Cabinet the Council Tax Tax Base and provisional Non-
Domestic Rates (NDR) Tax Base forecast for 2020/21, which would underpin the forthcoming Council Budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy scheduled for consideration at Budget Council on 26 February 2020.
The report also sought delegated authority to finalise the 2020/21 Non-Domestic Rates (Business Rates) forecast in order to reflect the information contained in the Local Government Finance Settlement for 2020/21 and up to date Non-Domestic Rates details, to be submitted to Central Government via the annual NNDR 1 return by the statutory deadline of 31 January 2020.
Additional approval was sought approval to delegate the final decision to join the pooling of Business Rates in 2020/21 with other Greater Manchester Districts, Cheshire East & Cheshire West and Chester Councils. Oldham had pooled Business Rates with neighbouring Authorities since 2015/16. The receipt of the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement marked the start of a 28-day period for confirming Oldham’s membership within the 2020/21 Business Rates Pool and the timing might not align with future Cabinet meetings.
Members were asked to note that the General Election of 12 December 2019 had affected the timetable for budget setting and related activities across all billing and precepting authorities. Delays to the publication of information such as the Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement might impact on billing authorities’ ability to submit government returns (such as the NNDR 1) and notify preceptors of tax base information on or before normal statutory deadlines. This, in turn, might impact on the timetable for scrutinising and considering budget reports at Committees and meetings leading up to Budget Council planned for 26 February 2020.
Cabinet noted the report set out information on the Council Tax Tax Base for 2020/21 using the most up to date valuation list and all other information and estimates available.
The total number of chargeable properties included in the Council Tax Tax Base calculation in Oldham for 2020/21 was 95,071. This figure was reduced to 86,290.25 after allowing for discounts and exemptions and translated to the equivalent of 68,454 Band D properties. After applying adjustments for the Local Council Tax Support scheme offset by the additional charging for empty properties and an anticipated increase in the number of properties to be included in the valuation list over the forthcoming year, the number of Band D equivalent properties reduced to 59,446. The final Tax Base after the application of the anticipated collection rate of 97% was 57,663 which was an increase of 970 over the Council Tax Tax Base for 2019/20 of 56,693.
The 2020/21 Tax Bases for Saddleworth and Shaw and Crompton Parish Councils of 8,707 and 5,494 respectively, had been calculated using the same
Members were reminded that statute required local billing authorities to prepare and submit to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) a locally determined and approved Business Rates forecast through the NNDR 1 return by 31 January each year. This forecast would be used to determine the 2020/21 “demand” and payment schedule for Business Rates between Oldham Council and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Being a participant in the Greater Manchester 100% Rates Retention Pilot Scheme (now extended by at least a further year until 31 March 2021) meant the Council no longer paid a share of Business Rates to Central Government. Instead, Oldham currently retained 99% of the income with 1% being paid to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority for Fire and Rescue services.
The estimated rating income for 2020/21 attributable to Oldham Council was currently £50.547m. Delegation was sought to enable the Business Rates forecast to be updated to take account of the 2020/21 Local Government Finance Settlement and up to date Non-Domestic Rates information, enabling the submission to Central Government of the annual NNDR 1 return by the statutory deadline of 31 January 2020 to Central Government.
Members noted that Oldham had pooled Business Rates revenues with other
Greater Manchester districts and the two Cheshire Unitary Authorities since
2015/16 (Cheshire West & Chester joined the pool from 2016/17). The aim of
pooling was to retain the benefits of any Business Rates growth within Greater Manchester for the benefit of the region. This report sought approval to continue these arrangements into 2020/21 (subject to the notification of the 2020/21 Local Government Finance Settlement).
Cabinet noted that traditionally, the Chancellor of the Exchequer delivered an autumn budget statement, which had been used to announce policy changes
to the business rates system and Members had been provided with updates on those changes within previous tax base reports. However, due to the calling of the General Election for 12th December 2019, the Chancellor cancelled his autumn budget statement, meaning no national policy changes to the business rates system for 2020/21 had been proposed.
Significant changes were proposed for the Retained Business Rates system from 1 April 2021. Changes included:
• A move to 75% rates retention nationally (increased from 50%) and the likely ending of the Greater Manchester 100% rates retention pilot scheme;
• The resetting of business rates baselines which could see locally retained growth fully or partially taken away from individual local authorities and redistributed through the funding formula;
• The implementation of recommendations from the fair funding review which could also impact on business rates baselines and the calculation of tariff payments and top up grants (designed to equalise the difference between an authority’s need for business rates revenue compared to what could be generated from local ratepayers);
• The revaluation of Business Rates leading to the national adjustment of rateable values and multipliers.
· Option 1 - The Council had little discretion in the calculation of the number of properties incorporated into the Council Tax Tax Base given the legislative framework that was in place. However, there was some discretion over-estimating the number of new properties that would be included on the Council Tax register during 2020/21. A prudent view had been taken in this regard. The main area for an alternative approach was over the level of assumed collection rate. An increase in the collection rate would boost the anticipated Council Tax income and a decrease in the rate would decrease income. The Council had chosen to maintain its 2019/20 collection rate at 97%. This decision had been influenced by a continuing and targeted focus on Council Tax collection rates.
· Option 2 - The NNDR1 return generated the figures upon which the Business Rates Tax Base was prepared. It was not therefore appropriate to consider an alternative approach. However, as the figures included on the NNDR1 return on 31 January 2020 may vary from the estimated level, delegation was sought to allow the opportunity to revise the Business Rates forecast and approve a revised and more accurate position for budget setting.
RESOLVED – That:
1. the following be approved:
a) The Council Tax Tax Base for 2020/21 at 57,663 Band D equivalent properties.
b) The latest estimate for 2020/21 Business Rates revenue that is
attributable to Oldham Council as being £50.547m.
2. Cabinet noted the Tax Bases for Saddleworth and Shaw and Crompton
Parish Councils of 8,707 and 5,494 respectively.
3. The decision to vary the final Business Rates forecast and hence the Business Rates Tax Base, be delegated if required, to the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services, in consultation with the Director of Finance.
4. The final decision of the Council’s membership of the proposed Greater Manchester, Cheshire East & Cheshire West and Chester Councils Business Rates Pool or 2020/21 (subject to the information contained in the 2020/21 Local Government Finance Settlement) be delegated to the Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Corporate Services in consultation with the Director of Finance.