|Local Government Bill
Mr. Leslie: Clause 47 states that the BID levy can be raised on ratepayers only while the BID arrangements are in force in that area. It also states that the duration of the BID, and therefore the period of time for which ratepayers will have to pay the additional levy, will be specified in the BID arrangements. However, to answer the point made by the hon. Member for New Forest, West, a related provision in clause 52 states that BID arrangements cannot remain in force for more than five years unless their renewal is approved in a fresh ballot of ratepayers. I hope that the debate on clause 52 will clarify those matters.
Subsection 47(3) provides that the BID levy will be calculated according to any method set out in individual BID arrangements. It is therefore not limited to being calculated on the basis of rateable value. It could be a flat rate levied on all properties, whatever their rateable values. However, from discussions with business organisations and rating professionals, we have concluded that the easiest and most popular way of calculating the levy is likely to be as a percentage of the rateable value of individual properties. Special provision may be needed to allow for the fact that charities or other non-profit-making bodies are less able to pay for the BID than profit-making bodies.
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Advice on calculating the BID levy will be available in the guidance on BIDs that accompanies the Bill.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: The Minister skated over that arrangement quickly. This is new territory; it is a new announcement today. As I understood it, different arrangements can be made for charities and voluntary bodies, which may be exempt from non-domestic rates anyway. Will that apply in a particular BID, will the arrangements be set out in the initial BID document or will guidance be prescribed nationally?
Mr. Leslie: It will be a combination. The guidance note touches on some of that. In general, the BID proposers will have to anticipate much of that, including the way in which they expect to levy a fair contribution from ratepayers across the BID area. Many of the arrangements and proposals will include many of those provisions. However, we shall certainly elaborate on some of those points in the guidance.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: I am sorry to press the Minister. I am still not clear whether there will be different arrangements for different BIDs and how they will be arrived at. Will there be guidance for each BID or will it be up to the local authority that draws up the arrangements in the first place to decide what provisions it will make for charities and voluntary bodies? One person's perception of what a charity or voluntary body can pay may be different from reality.
Mr. Leslie: I understand the hon. Gentleman's point. We are trying to put in place a permissive framework, not only through the legislative provisions but through the guidance that will supplement them. There will not be individual guidance notes for each BID. We will set the framework out and make it possible for special provision to be made for charities or others in an area. Indeed, we may give guidance that that would be good practice, but many of the matters will have to be decided by those putting together the BID proposals.
The hon. Gentleman asked whether the scope of the BID was unlimited. It is not. It is largely constrained by the fact that the ratepayers must give their assent to the levy that they will have to pay. I do not believe that their rate burden can be doubled, unless for some reason they seek to make that level of contribution. We have the double lock in the voting provisions to ensure that both large and small businesses have a strong say in the outcome of that vote.
My understanding is that there will not be different provisions for empty properties, but that the normal arrangements for the collection of rates will apply. If a levy is a liability for a ratepayer and there is a vacancy in a particular property, that levy, like the rates, would fall on the person who would usually become liable for the empty property.
On powers to cease a BID midway, I doubt that that provision is necessary. However, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we may come to that later. The local authority has a veto on the proposals. There is also the power to appeal to the Secretary of State and so forth. The fact that the proposals have to specify very clearly at the outset the likely activities of the BID means that we anticipate that those matters can be dealt with then.
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Mr. Clifton-Brown: I did not want to make a huge issue of the clause, because it is integral to the whole thing. However, the Under-Secretary said something that needs probing. He said that he doubts that there will be any need to suspend or cease a BID. Surely in the examples that I gave—severe flooding, riots, civil commotion and terrorist attacks—the whole purpose of the BID might be completely blown apart, to use an unfortunate pun. In circumstances involving such severe events, it might make sense to abandon the BID or, at least, suspend it. As I understand it, the Bill makes no provision for that.
Mr. Leslie: As I said, we do not anticipate that those circumstances will arise. However, clause 56(4) gives a reserve power to the Secretary of State to alter or terminate BID arrangements, if required. We do not see such circumstances arising.
The hon. Member for New Forest, West asked about the chargeable period and wanted to know for how long the charge would be levied and when renewal would take place. As I said, the answer is five years. I think that I have answered those points and I hope that the Committee will support the clause.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 47 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 48 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
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