The leader of Essex County Council lobbied MPs for clarity over the Government's business rates reforms.

David Finch was one of several experts invited to join a Select Committee looking at ways councils can take on more responsibility in return for increased revenue.

Under the latest proposals, councils could keep 75 per cent of the business rates collected from 2020/21, when central Government funding ceases.

However the plans have recently stalled, with Mr Finch calling on the committee to speak with greater transparency on the future of funding for authorities.

“Keeping business rates would give us the financial stability we need to realise our strategic ambitions for Essex and drive prosperity for all,” Mr Finch said.

“But there are still too many unanswered questions to enable us to plan effectively for our future.

“We have not built 100 per cent retention into our financial projections because we don’t have enough information, such as how much we could get, how the money will be distributed and what responsibilities will be devolved to us from Whitehall.”

Essex County Council predicts a funding gap of £94 million when Government grant funding comes to an end in around two years time.

If Essex had been chosen to take part in the pilot 100 per cent retention scheme, estimates say the county would have seen £38 million in extra funding - including £8 million for county hall.

Mr Finch said: "The loss of this funding is significant. It could have provided 550,000 care hours or fixed 16,000 defects on our highways network.

“It is unclear if the 75 per cent scheme even helps. The additional 25 per cent comes with a series of commitments, such as business rates being used to fund items like public health, which is currently funded by a separate grant.

“So we will lose the specific grant but maintain the requirement to deliver the service.

"The majority of funding under the 75% scheme is therefore merely a transfer of funding streams, it does not provide any additional money."

Mr Finch called for the government to "empower" county hall and let it keep all business rates, and distribute it how it wishes.

“We need greater clarity as a matter of urgency so we can plan safely for the future.

“It must be recognised that local government services cannot be switched off overnight, so the sooner we have clarity on this issue, the better.”