City de­mands tax pow­ers to re­verse high street slump

Scottish Daily Mail - - News - By Alan Shields

DES­PER­ATE coun­cil bosses have asked for tax-rais­ing pow­ers to com­bat the loss of 125,000 shop­pers from their high street ev­ery year.

Aberdeen City Coun­cil claims it is ‘es­sen­tial’ that it is given power from Holy­rood to set busi­ness rates, in­tro­duce a tourist tax and con­ges­tion charges.

Foot­fall on the city’s high street has slumped to 1.9mil­lion peo­ple in April 2019 from 2.3mil­lion in April 2016.

An in­de­pen­dently com­piled re­port found the city’s econ­omy was show­ing signs of ‘mod­est re­cov­ery’ af­ter the oil and gas down­turn of 2014, which crip­pled many busi­nesses and work­forces in the re­gion.

Coun­cil co-lead­ers Jenny Laing and Dou­glas Lums­den used the re­port to call for the abil­ity to set their own eco­nomic pow­ers for rais­ing funds. Miss Laing said: ‘The rec­om­men­da­tion from the eco­nomic panel was greater flex­i­bil­ity to ad­just pol­icy to meet unique eco­nomic trends – pri­or­i­ties and challenges that the cur­rent cen­tralised fo­cus sim­ply can­not ad­dress.’

She said busi­ness rates, which are ad­min­is­tered by coun­cils but set by the Gov­ern­ment, should also be de­volved.

A spokesman for the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment said: ‘Dis­cus­sions around the fur­ther fis­cal em­pow­er­ment of lo­cal au­thor­i­ties are on­go­ing as part of our Lo­cal Gover­nance Re­view.

‘It is for coun­cils, who have wide-rang­ing pow­ers to re­duce the rates paid by any ratepayer in their area, to determine how they pri­ori­tise their re­sources.’

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