Tax boosts for pro-fracking UK councils

taxUK Prime Minister David Cameron has declared his government is going “all out for shale”, offering tax incentives worth millions to local councils to encourage the country’s burgeoning shale gas industry.
As part of the UK Government’s plan to boost shale gas across the country, local councils will keep 100 per cent of business rates collected from shale gas sites – double the previous 50 per cent figure.
According to a statement from the UK Government, the commitment could be worth up to £1.7 million each year per site.
Local communities will also receive £100,000 when a test well is fracked and 1 per cent of revenue if shale gas is discovered, which the government said could total up to £10 million for a site over its lifetime.
Mr Cameron said a key part of the government’s long-term economic plan to secure Britain’s future was to back businesses with better infrastructure.
“That’s why we’re going all out for shale,” he said.
“It will mean more jobs and opportunities for people, and economic security for our country.”
The move came as French gas giant Total became the first major company to enter the UK shale gas arena, acquiring a 40 per cent stake in two exploration and development licenses in northern England.
Energy minister Michael Fallon said shale gas could bring jobs, growth and energy security to the country, as well as millions of pounds of investment to local councils and people.
Environmentalists likened the incentives to bribery, and accused the government of ignoring anti-fracking sentiment among the British public.
Greenpeace campaigner Lawrence Carter said Mr Cameron was telling councils to ignore the risks of large-scale industrialisation in exchange for cash.
“Having had their claims that fracking will bring down energy bills and create jobs thoroughly discredited, the government is now resorting to straight up bribery to sell their deeply unpopular fracking policy,” he said.
Friends of the Earth senior campaigner Jane Thomas said the move highlighted the lengths ministers were prepared to take to overcome opposition to fracking.
“This move raises potentially serious concerns about conflicts of interest, if councils that benefit from this money are also the ones who decide on planning applications from fracking firms in the first place,” she said.
UK Local Government Association environmental and housing board chairman Mike Jones called the move a “step in the right direction”, but called for greater returns to local communities.
“While it is encouraging that government is listening, local areas will be keen to hear more details on how the community benefits package will be strengthened to fairly remunerate those who will be most affected,” he said.
“One per cent of gross revenues distributed locally is not good enough; returns should be more in line with payments across the rest of the world and be set at between 5 and 10 per cent.”