Scottish Labour calls for ‘honest debate’ over council funding

Alex Rowley unveiled Labour's plans ahead of council elections. Picture: Neil Doig
Alex Rowley unveiled Labour's plans ahead of council elections. Picture: Neil Doig
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Scottish Labour proposed a series of tax rises and called for an “honest” debate about public services funding as it launched its vision for local Government.

Deputy Leader Alex Rowley said Labour would put an extra penny on income tax, reintroduced a 50 p tax rate for the highest earners and give local authorities the power to levy a tourist tax and a land value tax.

Starting Scottish Labour’s local election campaign, Mr Rowley also renewed Labour’s pledge to scrap the council tax and replace it with a fairer system.

Less than four months out from the May election, Labour’s document “Our Vision for Local Government” was unveiled by Mr Rowley at an event in Edinburgh, which was not attended by Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale.

When asked if the document amounted to a “quadruple whammy” of taxes, Mr Rowley replied: “We need some honesty into politics”.

He said: “If you look at the claims and counter claims about local authority budgets people out there who know family members who want to get a care package, but can’t get a care package. There are thousands - not just where bed blocking is happening – but there are thousands on waiting lists in local authority areas just to get an assessment for a care package.

“We know that in terms of the attainment levels in education we have got to do something about that. So what I’m saying is that we have got to have an honest discussion about the type of public services we want and how we pay for those public services.”

Under Labour’s plans, Labour would devolve the power to local government to charge a Tourist Tax on each hotel night per person. The maximum charge would be £2 per night, which, according to Labour, allows up to £70 million to be raised each year.

Councils would also be given the powers to tax more than 10,000 hectares of vacant, economically inactive land. The rate would be limited to four per cent of the land value – giving a revenue potential of £75 million.