It’s time to scrap the council tax, not increase people’s bills - Richard Leonard MSP

Last month I was out on a walkabout in Polmont Park with local Labour councillor Annie Hannah. People came out of their houses, cars pulled up at the kerbside, gardeners suspended their labours, to speak to us.
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The overwhelming reason? The day before the Scottish Government had announced a proposal to increase the council tax on properties banded E to H by up to 22.5 per cent in one fell swoop.

It represents abject governmental and political failure.

The SNP Government has been promising to scrap the council tax since 2007 and hasn’t. Instead, by imposing a freeze on it, it tied the hands of local councils for most of the last 16 years.

Plans have been announced to increase the council tax on properties banded E to H by up to 22.5 per cent (Picture: Shaun Wilkinson)Plans have been announced to increase the council tax on properties banded E to H by up to 22.5 per cent (Picture: Shaun Wilkinson)
Plans have been announced to increase the council tax on properties banded E to H by up to 22.5 per cent (Picture: Shaun Wilkinson)
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At the same time, it disproportionately cut local government funding compared to that of central government departments and agencies.

And now it wants to force a hike on people’s bills, during a cost of living crisis, to make up for its failure to do the right thing and properly fund local services.

The council tax is certainly not progressive, and is at best, a blunt instrument.

The Scottish Government’s own data reveals that in fact 38 per cent of the highest income households live in Band A-D properties. So would face no rise.

Richard Leonard is a Labour MSP for Central Scotland regionRichard Leonard is a Labour MSP for Central Scotland region
Richard Leonard is a Labour MSP for Central Scotland region
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Meanwhile more than 108,000 of the lowest income households stay in properties E-H. Fewer than a quarter of them receive council tax reductions.

The property valuations are in any case based on an exercise carried out way back in 1991.

In areas like Bonnybridge, Larbert, and the Upper Braes almost 40 per cent of households will be affected.

And there is no guarantee that the money raised will be retained and provide additional investment in local services here.

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This week Falkirk councillors will consider their response. It is likely that the SNP-led council will back the plan.

What they should be considering, and then demanding of the Scottish Government instead, is a comprehensive and transparent revaluation exercise, a restitution of the financial cuts they have had imposed on them, and a radical and robust plan to scrap the council tax altogether.

Richard Leonard is Labour MSP for Central Scotland