Minister building evidence base for reforms to business rates and council tax

(Title Image: Wales Online)

Here’s a round-up of this afternoon’s questions to Finance Minister & Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans (Lab, Gower).

Transport decarbonisation plans need to be scaled-up

Rhyn ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) believes Wales was still at an early stage in terms of investment in low carbon transport. Plaid Cymru agreed a £2million package to invest in a national charging network, but there seemed to be little evidence of any of this being spent.

“….do you accept that spending only half of that throughout the whole of Wales on public charging points up until the end of last year is a proof of the Government’s failure in turning spending pledges into reality? And if that’s your attitude towards the charging network, doesn’t that pose some very grave questions about the pledges made more broadly now in terms of tackling climate change and the willingness and ability of Government to turn those plans into reality?”
– Rhun ap Iorwerth AM

The Minister told him government priorities were based on advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change and the commitment to source 100% of electricity for the South Wales Metro from renewable sources was a sign that they were taking this seriously. On electric vehicles, there was still more for the market to do – not just government.

Helping small businesses

Shadow Finance Minister, Nick Ramsay AM (Con, Monmouth), asked how the budget helps small and micro-sized businesses? Having recently visited Chepstow high street, he found that some businesses paid no business rates while others were “clobbered with really high rates of business rates relative to the size of the business.” Was there a case to review the entire business rates system?

The Minister confirmed that there’s a review of local taxes plans – including business rates and council tax. While she didn’t want to “reform for the sake of reform” there was a case for an element of fairness in the business rates system.

“We’ve undertaken a suite of research to help us with that, including what would the implications be if we were to move to a land value tax, for example; looking at the implications of potential revaluation, who would be the winners and losers; and then also some work that looks at the implications of universal credit, specifically on the council tax side of local taxation….we’ll be publishing in a series of documents over the coming three months, I imagine, and they’ll be available….to explore in terms of a potential better way to do local taxation.”
– Finance Minister & Trefnydd, Rebecca Evans

Improving the budget process

Given the tight timeframes to prepare the proposed Welsh budget, Mark Reckless AM (BXP, South Wales East) asked whether the budget process itself could be improved – particularly to enable interested parties to make representations.

“The way the process works, with a draft budget and then at least several weeks of apparent consultation and consideration of what’s in that draft budget before we then bring forward a final budget for consideration, I wonder whether that process gives the impression to people….that there is a greater opportunity to change that budget in a more significant way than experience suggests may be the case.”
– Mark Reckless AM

The Minister described this year’s budget timings as “chaotic”. Changes to the budget process are being discussed by the Finance Committee and she thinks there’s a case for earlier consultation on budget proposals and more budget debates.

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