The truth about local taxation….

The SNP’s last minute and uncosted announcement of a Council Tax freeze for the duration of the next Parliament speaks volumes of their blasé approach to the issue.

Throughout the last Parliament MSPs were told about the SNP’s plans for a local income tax of 3p in the pound but now advice from the SNP’s own senior economic advisor, reveals that this proposal would have left an almost £800 million black hole in local authority budgets.  The SNP have gone to court to block the publication of an earlier memo, written two years ago, discussing the financial implications of the policy.  

The new advice suggests that a local income tax would need to be set over 50% higher, at around 4.6p, leaving households hundreds of pounds worse off. 

But after talking about it for four years, Local Income Tax is conspicuous by its absence in the SNP Manifesto.   A YouGov poll commissioned by The Scotsman found that even amongst those who support the principle of a local income tax, 90% of people opposed introducing the tax at the level identified in the Scottish Government advice.

I’m already campaigning against the existing mistakes the SNP/Lib Dem Council have made – closing nursery schools, cutting school budgets, putting disabled people at risk through their flawed tender for social care and then there’s the city’s potholes… 

The SNP needs to come clean.  They are being dishonest about their proposals to replace Council tax with the Local Income tax.  They’ve done the research, but they’re not even prepared to reveal how much it would cost local residents and there is real concern amongst residents on the door step about the cuts to come.

Out canvassing this week I met a teacher who was thinking about voting SNP who’s just taken early retirement because she can’t face more cuts in school funding.  She was a special needs teacher but is angry about the changes the local SNP/Lib Dem Council has proposed on teachers’ conditions.  We cannot afford to lose more qualified teachers like her and the impact of the lack of support for front line teaching staff.   We’ve already lost 3,500 teachers since the SNP came to power.

The pressure on school budgets is the result of the SNP’s squeeze on council funding and wrong priorities by Edinburgh City Council.   Scottish Labour is clear on the Council Tax.  We will continue the freeze for the next two years, ensuring that it is sustainably funded.   We are very conscious of the pressure families are under given the rise in VAT, fuel prices, and cuts in child benefits and tax credits coming from the Tory Government so believe that a freeze for the next two years will help hard pressed households.   But whilst we deliver this support, we know that local authorities need to operate as efficiently as possible.   We want to see increased collaboration between local authorities, sharing backroom functions and delivering joint frontline services where appropriate.   The Scottish Government has a key role to play in creating the conditions where joint working can thrive and Scottish Labour will introduce the reforms required to deliver the intended benefits of shared services.