Officials in Rochdale are turning to “radical” measures to help its struggling town centre by slashing shop owners’ business rates bill by 80pc. New businesses moving into empty shops will get an 80pc discount on their business rates for the first year, and a 50pc cut in the second year. The proposal, backed by leader of Rochdale Council Richard Farnell, is expected to be approved when it goes before the council’s cabinet on Monday.
“Like a lot of industrial northern towns, our town centre has been hit hard over the past 20 years. We’ve got to do something. It’s not good enough for policy-makers and councils to sit there and watch the gradual decline of the town centre. It will cost us a lot – we’ve got major budget problems already – but we have dug deep into our pockets to fund this,” said Mr Farnell.This is not an uncommon attitude among councils. They are revealing words too many utter without a hint of self-awareness - and it is a view that prevails in local government. It is the mindset that commerce and human activity is something councils have to "dig deep" to afford. It is the notion that commerce is some abstract curiosity that distracts councils from their duties. It is the notion that our high streets and our businesses only exist in thanks to the munificence of our rulers and we must be grateful they allow us to inconvenience them.
It is this mindset that creates our fundamental economic woes. It is the assumption that the state is the economy. We have a parasite that thinks it is the host. What's worse is that unlike most parasites, government does not seek an equilibrium with the host to ensure mutual survival. This type of parasite will suck the host dry even if it results in the death of both.
The reason I find those words so very terrifying is that they are uttered as though all wealth necessarily belongs to the state is a truism - as sure as apples fall from trees. That such sinister words can be delivered without a hint of caution, hesitation or sense of delinquency should be a cause for alarm. Mrs Thatcher may have killed off socialism, but the brainwash is still as potent as ever. Until we have tackled this mindset we will continue to limp along, stumbling from one economic crisis to the next.
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