Alasdair Rankin: Tories have no right to criticise SNP’s council tax proposals

SNP Cllr Alasdair Rankin. Picture: Neil Hanna

SNP Cllr Alasdair Rankin. Picture: Neil Hanna

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Miles Briggs, a Conservative MSP for Lothian, this week called upon SNP councillors in Edinburgh to take a public stand against the SNP government’s “damaging” council tax proposals (News, September 29). His statement is more revealing for what it leaves out that for what it says but perhaps the first point to make is that the Scottish Government, elected only months ago, is acting on a manifesto commitment to increase council tax for those living in houses in the highest Council Tax Bands, Bands E to H.

Mr Briggs fails to mention the benefit to all council tax payers of the freeze in council tax since 2007. If we assume that without the freeze there could have been a three per cent increase in each year of the freeze, the financial benefit to Band D council tax payers has been a cumulative £1711. He also fails to mention that the Scottish Government’s proposals do not include a revaluation of properties, which would have had a dramatic effect on council tax bills.

Nor is there any mention of the UK government’s economically illiterate austerity policies since 2010 which have imposed year-on-year reductions in the budgets of local authorities across the UK. This has caused particular difficulties for authorities which face substantially rising demand for services such as Edinburgh.

Mr Briggs also fails to mention the 25 per cent council tax relief for single occupiers. The list goes on – the UK government has removed the National Insurance rebate for contracted-out pensions schemes which now costs Edinburgh Council £10 million a year or the apprenticeship levy costing £1.8m.

If we add the maximum three per cent rise in council tax likely to be allowed by the Scottish Government from 2017/18 to the effect of the proposed changes in the charges for Bands E to H, the increase in council tax for the highest Band is £611 over a year and for Band E £155.

In all the circumstances, I do not think it is unreasonable to ask those most able to pay more to do so, particularly as the money raised will go directly to benefit the educational provision and improved outcomes for the great majority of Edinburgh’s schoolchildren and schoolchildren across Scotland.

Perhaps Mr Briggs would be better advised to encourage the Conservative Government in Westminster to address what are his own government’s counter-productive austerity policies in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement in November.

SNP Councillor Alasdair Rankin is convener of the finance and resources committee at Edinburgh City Council

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