Time for power to be held locally

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As Mansfield District Council faces further cuts to the funds it gets from central government we must look at new ways to improve the services we provide.

This week over 100 councils throughout England called on the government to devolve more powers to local authorities.

With more powers over financial affairs likely to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the case for English councils to be given the money to run their own affairs is very strong.

Our futures should not solely be decided by Westminster politicians and civil servants holed up in London.

But rather than wait to see how this devolution debate turns out there is already a legal framework in place that would enable Mansfield District Council to make a real difference.

The last Labour government passed the Sustainable Communities Act 2007 giving councils a mechanism to ask central government for new powers to support their work in making social, economic and environmental improvements to local areas.

What I want is for the council to have the power to raise a Local Large Retailer Levy allowing the council to charge an additional business rate on properties occupied by large retailers in the district.

The aim would be to use the money to finance support for local independent businesses and to improve the appearance and security of our town centres.

We need to make Mansfield, Woodhouse and Warsop places we, and visitors from outside the district, want to shop, eat and drink, and to be entertained.

A recent report estimates that such a levy could raise £927,350 every year from six out of town retailers, five of which are supermarkets.

We all use supermarkets as they are convenient. We use their free parking and shop for whatever we need. They make huge profits as a result.

But the downside of the growth of out of town supermarkets is that it is difficult for our small retailers who operate in our town centres and on our estates to compete.

The money generated from an additional levy will allow the council to promote our independent retailers, making grants available to improve the appeal of their premises and even making car parking free in our town centres.

In any request to government for the power to charge this “Supermarket Tax” the council must demonstrate that it has consulted with its local communities.

Councillors first need to persuade the Mayor and cabinet to hold a consultation with you on this issue. If the Mayor won’t consult with you, I pledge that you will have your say after the elections in May 2015.