Council tax rise gets green light from MSPs

Picture: TSPL
Picture: TSPL
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Controversial plans to end the council tax freeze next year in order to raise £100m for education have been backed at Holyrood today.

Opposition MSPs claimed the move is "plundering" the coffers of local rate payers to fund a national initiative and undermines local democracy.

But Finance secretary Derek MacKay's plans, which will raise the council tax in higher Band E-H properties, were passed by four votes to two on Holyrood's local government committee today.

Mr MacKay insisted that the move will raise £100 million annually to tackle the gap in schooling standards between richer and poorer areas of the country.

But Tory MSP Graham Simpson said the committee has heard concerns about "local accountability" in previous sessions.

He said: "Essentially this policy is being introduced for a national priority. There's great concern around that in local government."

He added: "That breaks local accountability. Council tax bills rise to fund your priority."

Another Tory MSP, Alexander Stewart, said Perth and Kinross, where he also sits as a councillor, would expect to raise £22 million in extra cash under the Government's plans, but may only keep £6-7 million of this.

"Some people may see that as a plundering of the tax revenue that's being raised," he added.

But Mr MacKay said: "Some people have suggested that we're clawing council tax money away from councils.

"We're not. Local authorities keep every penny raised through council tax."

He said that the revenue support grant - how Scottish Government cash is distributed to local councils - will be adapted so that cash for educational attainment can be directed where there is greatest need.

But he added: "Council tax monies stay with councils."

The Government plans will affect about 600,000 properties in bands E-H which will see rises of 7.5% to 22.5% imposed.

Ministers insist that the changes will make the system more proportionate.