Encouraging signs net major windfall

HUNTINGDONSHIRE is set to reap a £450,000 windfall for encouraging business expansion in the district. After a disappointing start last year to the Government s three-year business growth incentive scheme in which the district netted just £33,000, the dis

HUNTINGDONSHIRE is set to reap a £450,000 windfall for encouraging business expansion in the district.

After a disappointing start last year to the Government's three-year business growth incentive scheme in which the district netted just £33,000, the district council has learned that it will receive £453,785 as a reward for encouraging new businesses to the area.

In all, Huntingdonshire earned nearly £1million under the scheme, which is based on the increase in the value of business rateable values. But payment is limited to 70 per cent because two of the 328 eligible councils - one of them is nearby Corby - have mounted judicial challenges that prevent the Government paying the full amount.

One third of the 70 per cent goes to Cambridgeshire County Council, which receives a total of £1.376million under the scheme.


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Unusually for central Government grants, the money is not hypothecated to any particular activity. Councils can spend it or use it to reduce Council Tax.

There will be pressure from the Huntingdonshire business community to use the money for further business promotion, but it will be for elected members to decide how it is spent.

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HDC's head of policy, Ian Leatherbarrow, told The Hunts Post: "It's good news and much more than expected. We need to think of the best way of using it."

The council, which had budgeted to receive around £200,000 under the scheme each year as the business base expanded, had removed any expectation from this year's budget and next year's after the disappointment of 2005/06. So the £453,000 is a completely free hit for councillors.

Last year's £33,000 was spent as part of HDC's £300,000 contribution to the £1.3million creative enterprise centre being built in St Neots.

Business rateable value performance that year coincided with the closure of the Samuel Jones mill at Little Paxton, which remained empty for much of the year before ScandStick took it over. Although the mill has now closed, the company has stayed in the district with a move to new premises beside the A1(M) at Sawtry.

Total rateable value for Huntingdonshire business premises rose from £115.25million to more than £118.375million in the year.

Neighbouring Fenland will net £411,545 under the scheme - which would have been £587,921 if the full reward had been paid - after seeing rateable values rise from £41.75million to £43.575million. It got nothing in 2005/06.

The biggest winner in the county was Cambridge city, which netted over £1.5million and was the principal generator of the county council's £1.376million. Cambridgeshire's total business rateable value is £536million.

The Department for Communities and Local Government confirmed that, if the the legal challenges were successfully fought off, Huntingdonshire, Fenland and Cambridgeshire would get their full entitlement.

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