MSPs vote to approve council tax rises

MSPs are to vote on council tax rises in Scotland
MSPs are to vote on council tax rises in Scotland
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Thousands of households will see their council tax bills rise after MSPs voted for Scottish Government reforms that will see an increase for properties in the top four bands.

A comfortable majority backed the plans, although SNP MSPs were forced by their opponents to accept an amendment criticising the controversial plans.

From April charges will increase for properties in bands E to H, a move that the Scottish Government say will raise an extra £100 million a year to be spent on closing the education attainment gap.

The reforms mean the average annual bills for Band E properties will increase by £105. Band F will increase by £207, Band G £335 and for Band H £517.

Before the Scottish Government plans were voted on, opposition parties had thrown their weight behind a Green Party amendment which said the council tax changes “undermine the principle of local accountability and autonomy”.

The Green amendment was passed amid anger that the SNP had failed to keep its promise to scrap and replace the levy with a fairer system.

The amendment, which was passed by 64 votes to 63, also criticised the government for failing to address issues raised by the Commission on Local Tax Reform which recommended the abolition of council tax. It added that there “should be further discussions by all parties to seek to establish an enduring system of local government finance”.

The passage of the amendment left the SNP with the choice of voting for an amended Scottish Government motion which acknowledged the Green’s criticisms or failing to support their own policy.

In the end the SNP supported the amended motion, which was passed by 92 to 35 votes with the Conservatives and Lib Dems voting against it.

Critics have complained that diverting the extra cash into a central education pot will weaken the local link between where the tax is raised and where it is spent.

Scottish Conservative shadow finance secretary Murdo Fraser said: “With this vote, the SNP has condemned its own council tax plans.

“Not only does it hike tax for hardworking families, the policy completely undermines local accountability and autonomy too.”

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay insisted the changes would make the system “fairer and more proportionate”.

The average annual increase in council tax:

Band E - £105

Band F - £207

Band G - £335

Band H - £517