In his review of the way the council tax operates, Simon Pia focuses on a double dilemma for Labour (Perspective, 31 October).
The first is whether, even after more than 20 years of its operation, it should make a genuine attempt to reform the bands; the second is whether it will propose, before the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, to introduce charging or means-testing for various services.
He may be partly right that Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont wants to face up to the need for tough decisions on public spending. But he is seriously mistaken if he thinks that Labour’s core vote will accept passively an end to what some call “free” services. And he is deluded if he thinks Labour will make a real attempt to reform local government finance. Mr Pia was too kind about Labour’s approach to this before the 2011 election.
A shambolic proposal was put forward by then leader Iain Gray to allow councils to raise the council tax by a small amount, but only if it was to finance projects of which he approved.
It didn’t make a very good job of explaining its conversion to a two-year freeze, it is true.
Voters were unconvinced it had any proposals for change and it was simply adopting for short-term gain a policy which the minority SNP government had successfully implemented for four years.
It preferred to exploit that government’s decision to abandon plans for a local income tax rather than put forward any workable proposals of its own.
The local income tax is not to be revisited until after the 2016 election. It may be that some of the reasons that caused it to be dropped will no longer exist by that time.
Indeed, an autonomous Scotland may be in a position to say that property taxes are an outmoded means of raising revenue; it will be in a position to look at at a more progressive measure unhindered by the stubborn shackles of the Treasury and the existing HMRC.
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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