Last week the Scottish Parliament backed a Green MSP amendment (1) which supported raising £100 million extra for public services by tweaking the council tax bands of those who can most afford it. The amendment also, however, put on record the serious concerns about the council tax expressed across the political parties, local government itself and the public service unions.
East Kilbride Green campaigner, Kirsten Robb, said
“Whilst this change was better than nothing, it is a drop in the ocean compared to the cuts facing local services, cuts that a recent study confirmed affect the most vulnerable to the greatest extent. In South Lanarkshire, for example, people have told us about advocacy services being cut and crisis funds running out fast. Local council offices and community facilities like libraries are being centralised or closed too. This cannot go on and that is why I was pleased the Greens, SNP and Labour agreed with Green MSP Andy Wightman's amendment to continue work to find a replacement to council tax that addresses the issues identified in the local tax commission, like local accountability and fairness (2). As Greens, committed to local services and local democracy, we will continue to hold the government's feet to the fire on this.”
- Amendment as agreed in the name of Andy Wightman MSP: That the Parliament agrees that the Council Tax (Substitution of Proportion) (Scotland) Order 2016 [draft] be approved but, in so doing, regrets that the Scottish Government’s proposals for Council Tax reform undermine the principle of local accountability and autonomy and fail to address a number of issues identified by the Commission on Local Tax Reform; notes the opportunities to remedy this during the current session of Parliament, and considers that there should be further discussions by all parties to seek to establish an enduring system of local government finance.
- The cross-party Commission on Local Tax Reform, was established by the Scottish Government and also involved COSLA, the Greens, Labour and the Liberal Democrats (the Tories refused to take part). Its remit was to examine alternatives that would deliver a fairer system of local taxation. Its central recommendation was for the council tax to end.Council tax is based on valuations more than a quarter of a century old. Most households are in the wrong band. Properties in the highest band are worth, on average, 15 times those in the lowest, but they pay only three times as much. Last year, Greens proposed changes to local taxation as short-term, emergency measures to reverse the cuts imposed on Scotland by the UK Government. Achievable immediately, these would have raised as much extra revenue as Labour’s 1p income tax plan, but without the implausible requirement of setting up an entirely new rebate mechanism in the space of a few weeks.