Published: 4th Mar 2011

A serious conversation about the financial mechanisms underpinning local government is urgently overdue and the resource review at present underway is welcome. Recent top line announcements, on liberalisation of business rates and the notion of ‘free councils’ are a hint at a strong financially localist direction. However, there are serious questions in this about redistribution and the extent to which we can liberate wealthier areas from their redistributative relationship to poorer areas. Get this wrong and we may end up widening inequalities and worsening place resilience. At the heart of this debate, is the ‘Barnsley question’, first posited from the floor, during the CLES/Localis fringe event in Manchester Town Hall during Conservative Party conference in the autumn of 2009. This question highlights the problem whereby full retention of business rates locally, would see a local authority like Westminster gain £950m whilst Barnsley would lose £42m. The question thus posits: can … (To read the full article, subscribe below)