SMALL firms are insisting that, if Cambridgeshire County Council levies an additional business rate under proposed new legislation, not only should the money be spent on local economic development but those who pay it should have a say on how it is spent.

SMALL firms are insisting that, if Cambridgeshire County Council levies an additional business rate under proposed new legislation, not only should the money be spent on local economic development but those who pay it should have a say on how it is spent.

The Business Rate Supplements Bill would create a new power for upper tier local authorities to levy a local supplement on the business rate and to retain the proceeds for investment in that area. But it would provide safeguards for business, including a requirement that proceeds should be spent on economic development; consultation and, in certain circumstances, a ballot of businesses that would be affected, a national upper limit to the levy of 2p per £1 of rateable value, and an exemption for all properties with a rateable value of £50,000 or less, which would let a large proportion of Huntingdonshire firms off the hook.

The plan is that it would enable investment in projects such as transport infrastructure that support economic growth, but would not otherwise go ahead.

On top of letting the piper-payer pick the tune, said Malcolm Lyons, chairman of the Huntingdonshire branch of the Federation of Small Businesses: "We must preserve our independent small high street stores that bring character into our towns, especially market towns.

"Rating these small stores must be done in a much fairer way - rates fixed by store turnover in the establishment years, plus now in this recession, will help small stores survive. I do not want to see cloned High Streets," he added.