Cross-party tax commission publishes local taxation report
The cross-party commission, established jointly by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), brought together representatives from across the political spectrum to look at options for a fairer local tax system.
Just Change: A New Approach to Local Taxation argues that a replacement for the current system of council tax must be designed to be fairer, more progressive and locally empowering.
The report does not advocate any single alternative to the present system, highlighting that “there is no one ideal local tax”, but it sets out a range of different systems of local taxation, and consider the potential impact and administration of these.
Minister for Local Government Marco Biagi, one of the commission’s co-chairs, said: “The First Minister established this commission to allow an informed debate on the future of local taxation.
“We welcome the fact that four of the five parties in the parliament have taken part and come to an agreement on a set of crucial principles – that local tax should be more progressive, broader and more empowering to local government.”
He added: “The Scottish government has sought to mitigate the worst impacts of the council tax over the last eight years, with the council tax freeze benefitting average households by £1,200.
“We will consider the findings of the report carefully and we will set out our detailed proposals for reform by the end of the parliamentary term, embodying the principles of the commission’s report.”
Citizens Advice Scotland has welcomed the report, which is based in part on evidence provided by the Scottish CAB service.
CAS does not recommend any particular alternative to the current council tax system, instead it said any new system must follow four basic principles. It must be transparent and easy to understand; be sensitive to the impact on low income households; prevent debts, rather than worsening them and collect arrears in a fair and proportionate fashion.
CAS policy manager, Keith Dryburgh, said: “Council tax is one of the most common issues on which people seek CAB advice. Last year Scottish CAB advisers dealt with more than 29,000 new issues related to council tax. This represents over 100 such issues per working day, or around one council tax issue for every 10 people who seek advice from a CAB in Scotland.
“If anything, we believe these figures may under-estimate the impact of council tax on people’s lives. The current system is causing too many problems, particularly for low income households. These problems include affordability, the way in which debt is collected, and how the charges are communicated. We made all of this evidence available to the commission and we are pleased it has been taken on board.
“There seems to be a growing consensus that council tax has had its day in Scotland. Now the focus must be on building a new system that is fair, clear and affordable.”