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Business rates pilot sees £1m Mid Suffolk projects approved

By Newsdesk Bury

More than £1 million of funding for key projects in Mid Suffolk has been given the green light as part of a multi-million pound programme of county-wide investment.

Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Council headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich. (4667054)
Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Council headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich. (4667054)

Suffolk was announced as one of 10 areas in the country to be part of a pilot for the government’s 100 per cent business rates retention scheme for this year.

Ordinarily, councils keep 50 per cent of business rates to invest in their area while the remainder is sent back to central government.

For the 2018/19 year as part of the pilot, Suffolk’s councils are retaining 100 per cent of the cash collected – meaning an additional £11 million of money is available to invest in key projects.

In July, Suffolk public sector leaders outlined the vision for the cash, with Mid Suffolk District Council approving six schemes totalling £1.1 million at Monday’s cabinet meeting.

John Whitehead, cabinet member for finance, said: “This scheme encompassing all of Suffolk has attracted over £11 million of extra funding.

“This list totals just shy of £1 million, so it means we have not exhausted all of the funding.”

Development of a café and visitor centre at Needham Lake is in line for £300,000, while the revamp of the former NatWest, in Stowmarket, is receiving £240,000.

A £200,000 fund will go towards developing a technology hub in Stowmarket, £150,000 for the purchase and redevelopment of The Foyer in Stowmarket, £60,000 for a growth engagement programme and £30,000 towards establishing a Central Suffolk Chamber of Commerce.

The remaining £200,000 of Mid Suffolk’s share will be distributed to any new projects identified, if given approval by the relevant cabinet members, or pumped into the existing projects agreed.

Rachel Eburne, Green group leader, said the documents did not have enough detail, adding: “I just feel that, while I support getting funding into our own district and not other areas of the country, I feel we should have better communication on this and better information.”

After this year’s pilot, it is understood central government will look at whether to roll it out further, although it is understood it would be to allow councils to retain 75 per cent rather than 100 per cent if approved.

Babergh District Council is set to approve its five projects totalling just over £1 million at Thursday’s cabinet meeting.

Mid Suffolk projects:

  • Needham Lake café/visitor centre – £300,000
  • Stowmarket former NatWest – £240,000
  • Stowmarket technology hub – £200,000
  • Stowmarket The Foyer redevelopment – £150,000
  • Inclusive growth engagement officer – £60,000
  • Forming a Central Suffolk Chamber of Commerce – £30,000

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