Poll tax debt plan ‘may affect frontline services’

People marching in protest over the poll tax in Scotland in 1989. Picture: TSPL
People marching in protest over the poll tax in Scotland in 1989. Picture: TSPL
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PLANS to scrap historic poll tax debts could hit the collection levels of the current council tax and impact on frontline services, MSPs have been warned.

A number of local councils have raised concerns, warning there is a “significant risk” to council tax collection at a time when the SNP Government has appointed a commission to look at replacing the council tax.

Former First Minister Alex Salmond unveiled plans to write off historic poll tax debts last year. It came after some councils suggested they would use the increased electoral roll from the high referendum turnout to chase down historic dodgers.

But Highland Council has warned of the potential for “unintended consequences” over the proposed legislation.

“The significant risk here is to future Council Tax collections. Confidence (certainty) is a major ingredient when finance/money is involved,” the council states in a submission to Holyrood’s finance committee.

“Anything that creates/introduces an element of doubt as to the future creates uncertainty.”

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It raises concerns over the timing of the Bill in relation to the review of council tax unveiled by Nicola Sturgeon, which it favours.

“The timing of both this Bill and the Commission is very worrying in terms of the possible negative impacts on future Council Tax collections levels.”

East Ayrshire also notes the concern about the impact on council tax collection, warning this Council warns this is “a particularly challenging area for Councils at the moment”.

Leaders: Writing off poll tax debt is good for Scotland

It adds: “Any reduction in collection rates has a direct consequence on revenue budgets and therefore service delivery.

“The risk of losing Council Tax income as a consequence of a misplaced public perception would be a concern.”

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