Senior councillors will be asked to approve plans for an initiative providing extra financial support to businesses that make a positive difference to life in Leeds.
Support would be targeted at social enterprises, businesses that are in their first three years of trading, and businesses which have a social or civic purpose that delivers wider benefits to local people and communities.
Reduced expenditure on rates will, it is hoped, give recipients more scope for investing in innovation, research and development while, crucially, helping them retain and create the kind of high-quality employment opportunities that underpin the council’s ambitions for inclusive growth.
Coun Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “We want to do everything we can to support our local businesses, particularly after the difficulties many of them experienced as a result of the pandemic.
“This scheme will help us deliver good value for the taxpayer by getting that support to businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs whose products and services have a positive impact on people’s lives.
“Its focus on social value also aligns well with our inclusive growth strategy, which aims to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to benefit from the strength and vibrancy of the Leeds economy.
Proposals for Leeds City Council’s new discretionary business rate relief scheme will go before the authority’s executive board at a meeting on Wednesday.
If it gets the green light, the scheme will launch later this year, with successful applicants receiving up to £15,000 off their annual business rates bill.
Businesses chosen for assistance would be expected to sign a corporate and social responsibility pledge that would see them committing to actions such as hosting community-based activities or improving the skills and employability of young people in education.
The new scheme would have a capped budget of £1.75m per annum, with 50 per cent of its costs being met by central government.
Priority would be given to applications from businesses occupying premises that have a rateable value between £15,000 and £51,000.
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The council said providing rate relief is seen as a cost-effective way of helping firms maintain or scale up their presence, with their continued and potentially increased contribution to the local business rates base also generating useful future income for the local authority.
Previous council-operated discretionary rate relief schemes were put on hold in 2020 following the introduction of other forms of support specifically designed to help businesses cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated lockdown restrictions.
The council has the option of simply reopening its previous discretionary schemes now that Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted, but it sees the new plans – with their added focus on social value – as a better way of meeting the changed economic needs of the business community and the city as a whole in the post-pandemic era.
Coun Pryor added: “We believe the scheme will not only help businesses create and retain jobs but also see them providing improved jobs, giving people across Leeds the best possible chance to make the most of their skills and potential.”
Subject to executive board approval this week, applications to the new scheme will open in September. Applicants will be able to use a streamlined, easy-to-navigate online system.
Businesses that operate in sectors such as hospitality, non-domestic travel and tourism, non-essential retail and short-term accommodation and which are continuing to suffer from the effects of the pandemic currently have the option of applying for rate relief from the council’s Covid-19 Additional Relief Fund.
National business rate relief schemes administered by the council – including those offering rural rate relief, charitable rate relief and enterprise zone relief – are due to continue operating as normal post-September.