Scottish councillor slams council tax decision

An outspoken councillor has accused the Scottish government of being like the Nazi Party in a row over council tax.

Bill Bowles is an Independent Councillor for Carnoustie and District Ward of Angus Council. Image: TSPL

Councillor Bill Bowles, an opposition member of Angus Council, was speaking out against “Draconian penalties” that would be imposed if the town hall increased council tax to avoid cutting services.

Bowles said its behaviour was like the “democracy of Germany in the Third Reich”, while the government responded by saying his comment was “beneath contempt”.

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The architects of an alternative spending plan have accused the Scottish government of “bully boy tactics” after revealing that a council tax hike of 18 per cent would be required just to break even in the face of financial penalties which would follow any move to raise council tax. They say their council tax freeze-busting budget has been “torpedoed.”

Councillor Bowles, member for Carnoustie, said work had been going on for some time to deliver an alternative budget which would introduce a modest council tax rise in a bid to stave off threats to services.

He said: “We were looking at a 5 per cent increase and could have lived with the loss of £1.4million of council tax freeze support.

“But the draconian penalties which would be inflicted mean Angus Council would lose not only the Council Tax freeze support (£1.4m) and teacher number support (£1.83m) but their share of health and social care integration funding (£5m) as well.

“I am disgusted that [Finance Secretary] Mr Swinney should find it acceptable to reduce local authority budgets, attempt to put all the blame on Westminster, and then propose to withhold massive amounts of allocated monies if councils step out of line and refuse to bow to his demands.

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“The only people who are being affected by these actions are the young, elderly and less well off.

“If this is democracy in action then the last time it was seen to work so effectively was in Germany in the era of the Third Reich,” he said.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Comments such as this are beneath contempt.”

Arbroath opposition councillor David Fairweather added: “This has torpedoed our plans completely.

“This dictatorial attempt by the SNP government over our budget settlement is a devastating blow to the residents of Angus who will see essential services eroded further or lost completely.

“The simple fact is that if we put up the council tax as a choice, our so called ‘package’ of money will be withdrawn as a punishment.

“The SNP have not only effectively ruled out a council tax rise that would protect our services such as sheltered housing, they have hog tied us, put concrete round our feet and threatened to throw us in a raging sea.

“For us now to put forward an alternative budget is nigh near impossible and I am sure the public will see this tyrannical SNP stance for what it is.”

The Angus budget will now be set on February 18 after the authority decided to move it back a week to allow work to take place on the funding gap beyond the savings package already being considered.