It’s time to end the Council Tax freeze

Gavin YatesGavin Yates is a Labour councillor in Fife, a former party advisor, and is NOT standing for Holyrood in 2016. He says Swinney’s cuts are the final straw – we must end the Council Tax freeze.


The SNP budget announced on December 16 was even more savage than anyone had expected. I attended a COSLA briefing in November and heard that the expected 0.9 per cent reduction might look more like 1.6 per cent. The reality – as we have seen – is much, much worse.

A colleague of mine – one known for plain speaking – doesn’t like percentages. “What does four per cent mean?” And he is right. The reality of these percentage cuts are the lives of our people, the services they rely on and the livelihoods of thousands of hard working council staff.

Mr Swinney tried almost to ignore local government in his statement to Parliament, perhaps hoping that if he rattled through that section then no-one would notice. Well they did. And when the redundancy notices start to drop in the coming months and years we will know and remember the catalyst.

But the rot started to set much earlier than that. The Swinney budget is merely the culmination of a lengthy attack on local government and the services it provides.

The hollowing-out effect of the Council Tax freeze, unwisely backed by Labour late on in the run up to the 2011 election, has diminished local government to the point where it is emerging as nothing more than a cuts quango for the SNP. A useful idiot, a set of whipping boys and girls for ministers, and firmly on the front line of the blame business.

These most recent cuts, and the lack of ability to mitigate them, should put councils now on a collision course with the Scottish Government. To implement a set of Tory cuts that have been made vastly worse by the decisions of the SNP is neither credible nor morally just. It should not matter what political affiliation a council has – the time for action is now.

The SNP government had the opportunity to mitigate the austerity vision laid out by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement by raising Scottish Income Tax. It is perverse that after calling for income tax powers for so long, when push comes to shove, ministers decline to use those powers. Any pretence of being ‘anti-austerity’ that Mr Swinney may have had evaporated when he decided not to raise the rate.

So, with the Scottish Government deciding to cross the metaphorical road when the poor and the vulnerable needed their support, it is my strong view that councils in February should set out spending plans that include a Council Tax increase.

It is the moral response to the on-going crisis in our communities and unless the Scottish Government backtrack on these deep cuts it is the only hope for the future of local government.

Any move from the SNP to take money from councils that do not agree to a Council Tax freeze will be an attack on the poorest in our society. Any subsequent cuts resulting from such a removal would rightly be laid at the doors of Scottish Ministers.

I fear that these cuts may be part of an agenda to push for a reduction in the number of councils, driven by “efficiencies”. As we have seen with the creation of Police Scotland, centralisation alone does not mean efficiency – it is often just plain, simple cuts.

From a Labour perspective – and this is LabourHame after all – our current narrative isn’t really working. We are not showing the stark differences between our vision for Scotland and the calculated but ultimately conservative inclinations of the SNP. I want to see our party call for an increase in the Scottish Rate of Income Tax to help the poor and get full support from all levels of the party for increases in Council Tax to protect local communities struggling under the joint assault from Westminster and Holyrood.

We have the ability now to be genuinely anti-austerity. Or we can continue to talk a good game but ultimately not get a fair hearing. We can be bold and honest, or we can tinker around the edges.

I fully support Kezia as Scottish Leader and know she has what it takes to make the tough decisions that are necessary. I also do not doubt that Labour councillors have within them the courage to bite the bullet. It’s time for us to take on the SNP, and then take forward the argument that local services are worth defending. That education, social care, transportation and environmental services are worth those able paying a bit more for, to protect these vital services and the increasingly vulnerable people who rely on them.

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21 thoughts on “It’s time to end the Council Tax freeze

  1. “It’s time to end the Council Tax freeze”

    If you believe that Gavin you can pay the equivalent of my council tax rise any time you like to the Scottish Government. Nobody says you don’t have to pay extra taxation if you want to. If you feel your local council needs more money then by all means feel free to give it to them.
    But bare this in mind because its highly relevant especially where Labour councils are concerned. No amount of local taxation will ever be enough for a councillor. No matter how much you give councils they will always find ways to spend it. A good council is one where it knows how to budget with what it has rather than budget under the comfort blanket of a never ending perpetual source of extra revenue it can squeeze anytime if feels the need to do so.

    1. “A good council is one where it knows how to budget with what it has rather than budget under the comfort blanket of a never ending perpetual source of extra revenue it can squeeze anytime if feels the need to do so.”

      Nailed right there, Mate…. Nailed!

    1. Indeed if our local councils are in trouble what happened to all this pooling and sharing of UK resources? why wont the UK Government release some of this pooling and sharing resource they keep harping on about?

      1. Being part of the Union certainly allows for pooling and sharing of resources across the UK but, as we have seen, is no guarantee against poor decisions by an SNP Scottish Government – like disproportionately cutting the local government budget.

  2. You have to wonder at the position Labour in Scotland takes with regards to on the one hand demanding more Local funding while simultaneously denying Scotland FFA.
    Apparently its necessary to provide labour councils in Scotland with more money on tap but not an SNP National Government.
    Apparently an SNP National Government should learn to deal with its present budget restrictions and use what it has to play with but Local labour councils in Scotland require the tap of the public purse to be left wide open to serve their needs.

    And they still wonder why only the braindead the gullible and the misinformed vote for them.

    1. Yes wonderfully consistent stuff. Instead of blending arguments, try addressing the specific issue. That, if you disagree with austerity, we can in Scotland; raise CT, Raise SRIT, or perhaps do both. Voting against independence or being against FFA doesn’t mean we agree with Tory policy.

      Yours, one of the braindead, gullible and misin …. yawn!

  3. It would be interesting to know what level of local government cuts have been made since 2010/11 in England and in Wales—for context and perspective.

    I would like local government in Scotland to have total control over raising their own income. With legally binding provision for education etc. Or you could do what Labour and Tory government has more or less done in England, and take education away from local government vie the Academy/Free School route etc.
    But beware what you wish for. Once established, there could only be a few years central support to allow poorer areas to catch up, and then everyone would be responsible for nurturing their OWN local economies.
    Let the various bodies which represent COSLA and the Labour splitters come forth with their taxation plan.
    Though we have been waiting for Labours plan for well over a decade now, so its about time we had something. A land plus income tax? Something progressive?

  4. I agree with Gavin Yates, if Labour feel so strongly about the CT they should commit to abolish the freeze. Labour should put it in their manifest for May. “We Labour promise to raise the Council Tax”. Tell the voters by how much or better still leave that up to Labour’s local councils. You know its the right thing to do.

  5. Hi Gavin

    I’m an SNP member and I agree that the time is right to end the council tax freeze.

    Unfortunately you as a Labour NO voter don’t have any right to gripe. You just can’t help yourself can you? This small sample for instance:

    “The SNP government had the opportunity to mitigate the austerity vision laid out by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement by raising Scottish Income Tax. It is perverse that after calling for income tax powers for so long, when push comes to shove, ministers decline to use those powers. Any pretence of being ‘anti-austerity’ that Mr Swinney may have had evaporated when he decided not to raise the rate.”

    Firstly you propose we in Scotland should pay extra tax to mitigate Tory cuts. Cuts that your Westminster Labour Party did not oppose. Cuts ideologically imposed by a party we would have been rid of forever had you not scared our old people.

    Secondly you KNOW that the income tax powers do not allow variations between bandings. An extra few pence in the £ means a real hit to the very people you purport to help. Scotland KNOWS this too, therefore your disingenuous claims simply show you in a poor light. Again.

    TNS poll out today. Not looking good……

    1. Well said Davie. The Labour controlled councils don’t know the meaning of budget control. As for raising the income tax. Well that would mean the poorest would have their rate raised too. According to the poster this is a fabulous idea. Better together ? Aye right ! Alba Gu Brath

  6. “Gavin Yates is a Labour councillor in Fife, a former party advisor, and is NOT standing for Holyrood in 2016. He says Swinney’s cuts are the final straw – we must end the Council Tax freeze”

    Gavin it is because of ideas like yours that the Scottish Labour section is puggled and there is no way back, the mast majority of folk in Scotland have not got loads of cash to pay for your dreams and needless to say based on this crazy idea the likelihood is that you will recieve the grand honour of the boot at the next council elections.

  7. Great ideas there Gavin & if you have any influence with the team preparing next year’s manifesto you should do everything possible to ensure increased national taxes for everyone irrespective of earnings is in there, I’m sure it’ll be even more popular than increasing the council tax.

    Keep up the good work, even today there’s more polling which shows just how much Scotland wants what you’re offering

  8. Another point of note Gavin. How on earth can any local councillor claim that more money is needed at local level when public services have undergone a massive transference from the public to private sector?
    What was the point of transferring services over to the Private sector if it didn’t make any difference to funding needs?
    With more services now in the Private sector than in the public sector what is left for Local councils to spend more money on?
    Only recently we saw the latest ideological shift in service provision with the Post Office. How come local councils didn’t get a cash injection when the burden of the Post Office budget was removed from their responsibility?

    It never ceased to amaze me how much local funding increased at the same time as public service provision decreased. We pay more than ever to public services while simultaneously pay ever more to private service provision.
    Everything from Telecoms and transport to dental and optical.
    That has all the hallmarks of despotic corruption mismanagement incompetence or outright criminal conspiracy.

  9. Gavin,
    Is it any wonder the party is stuck at 20% in the polls?
    It’s not 2 years since you were deeply involved in Alex Rowleys by-election, when the party proudly supported the Council Tax freeze, now you are opposed and also no doubt you supported it during Carla Hilton’s by-election.
    One day you support something, then you are against, then you are in favour again, twice (in by-elections) and then against.
    Is it any wonder the party has zero credibility with the electorate?
    List seats all round next year (even for those who said it would be ‘defeatist’ to take the place at the top of the list and now take that place).

    1. Deco it’s not new Gavin has a tendency for flip-flopping hence his inconsistency over policy issues like the Councils Tax you cannot tell from day to day and week too week his position on this issue as he plays to the gallery so don’t be in thr surprised if there is another change in early in the New Year.

  10. Councils are not affected at all by the council tax freeze as the is fully funded by the Scottish government. But they don’t want to tell you that.

  11. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but is it not the fact that their is nothing to stop local councils from increasing their council tax if they want too. It just means they lose their council tax funding from the government.

    So if a labour controlled council wishes to increase their council tax they just need to grow a set of balls, and for those without balls I’m sure balls will be provided.

  12. The entire Labour ‘SNP cuts’ line is an embarrassing, cringeworthy joke that will ruin Corbyn’s reputation of honest politics in Scotland if he parrots it. As a socialist, I find nothing in your party that is worth voting for.

    Let’s take this single issue of the Council Tax freeze which is pretty marginal and popular but I could see an argument for raising it. Why don’t you just propose a fairer local taxation system? Even if you do stop the freeze, you know fine well that it will go nowhere close to mitigating Tory cuts.

    But that is Labour now though isn’t? Campaign against devolution of powers and posture in Scotland on those issues you campaigned to keep. We couldn’t share a currency because Scotland couldn’t be anti-austerity while England was pro-austerity and then lie about it when austerity from England is imposed. Dont devolve Trade Union laws then lie about why we can’t do anything about it.

    This based on your arrigant view that Scottish working-class are a race of proud, scrounging wasters blaming others for their poverty. It is also based on the cynical premise that if you monster the SNP enough folk will rally back to your brand as the only alternative. It’s pish and the best you can hope for is apathy.

  13. Gavin, maybe it’s best if you break the news to Glasgow Labour. Freezing the council tax till 2017 was the 1st item in the 100 item long promise list in their 2012 election manifesto.

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