Gavin YatesGavin Yates a Fife Councillor and former Labour Party advisor says that John Swinney’s reaction to local councils considering raising Council Tax will have long term implications for the future of local democracy in Scotland.


When I wrote for Labour Hame back last year about the need to increase council tax I expected some controversy. Despite the terrible deal delivered to local government by John Swinney on December 16 the message of ‘paying more’ was never going to be universally liked.

I was in fact surprised that some many party members and members of the public told me clearly and unambiguously how much they valued council services and as one told me: “Someone has to pay for them, don’t they?”

It wasn’t unanimous by any means and one person asked me if I would pay any increase for him if I liked paying taxes so much. I politely demurred.

The difficulty that local government faces now is even starker than the one I examined back in December. For an authority like mine in Fife, a decision to raise the funding envelope to mitigate vicious cuts meant a possible fine of £4.6m. An increase of 7.5 per cent would raise £11m and even with a SNP fine of £4.6m this still meant there was a good deal of mitigation that could be achieved with the remainder.

John Swinney’s intervention this week changes that paradigm and leaves Councils facing an impossible conundrum. Either accept the biggest cuts local government has ever seen – and proportionately more than any Scottish Government reduction from Westminster – or face penalties into the tens of millions in relation to health and social care funding and teacher recruitment.

The SNP has always maintained that raising Council Tax was a matter for local government and any reduction was based on a ‘share’ of the £70m ‘funding settlement’. This was never adequate to fund the freeze but it was a useful fig-leaf. This new threat can’t even claim that.

It is as if Swinney has taken on the role of the Jack Palance character in the 1950s Western ‘Shane’, who throws the gun to the farmer, intoning for him to ‘Pick up the gun’, and then shoots him dead, claiming: “You all saw it. He had a gun.”

With the damaging cuts lumped on local authorities in December, Mr Swinney threw down a challenge to councils. Moray – with its Independent/Tory administration not known previously for radicalism – took up the gauntlet and said the cuts were that bad that an increase in the funding envelope had to be examined.

Mr Swinney’s response was not to re-examine the lousy hand he had dealt councils, but to raise the stakes and threaten financial crisis to anyone who denied his will. This behaviour is not the way a minister should act. It is simple blackmail and thuggery.

The coming days will be crucial for the future of local government. SNP councillors might be thinking “Keep mouths shut guys and wait ‘til after the election. Nice Mr Swinney will sort it out in due course.”

I would strongly suggest that would be a mistake.

The damage to local services that these cuts will have will also have long-lasting implications for communities that councils of any political persuasion will not be able to turn around easily and some services may be lost forever.

The issue facing us now is not one of Labour vs SNP but the more defining issue of central control vs local accountability. I know which side I am on. I hope all councillors – of all parties and no party – do too.

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28 thoughts on “Pick up the gun

  1. “Gavin Yates a Fife Councillor and former Labour Party advisor says that John Swinney’s reaction to local councils considering raising Council Tax will have long term implications for the future of local democracy in Scotland.”

    I seriously doubt it will be of any concern to anybody after the local council elections in Scotland later this year terminate the corrupt and worthless Labour council group completely.

    Only Labour councils have the unique distinction of actually being worse than their MSPs in Parliament.

    I and many like me look forward to the utter devastation of Labour in Scotland at both local and Parliamentary levels. Finally the country gets the representation it deserves at all levels.

    Government with cooperation, compassion, social concern, justice, consideration, consultation and competence.

    All that’s left is to rid ourselves of the criminal fascist corruption of the Westminster Parliament and its Anglo centric Uncle Tam dependent one size fits all if its good for the South East of England approach to despotic rule.

    1. Mike,
      “after the local council elections in Scotland later this year terminate the corrupt and worthless Labour council”

      Before you dance on the grave of Labour keep in mind the that council elections are actually next year. Rather than engage in this nonsense why not actually respond to the points Gavin Yates is making?

      1. As usual there are no actual points to engage with. Pure unashamed foundationless rhetorical spew and hardly a word of truth in any of it.

        No acknowledgement of Labours past record in privatising local public services. No acknowledgement that all local councils were fully compensated for the freeze. No acknowledgement that they are sitting on a 1.8 billion reserve fund. No acknowledgment that Labour in spite of privatising much of the local public sectors increased local taxation exponentially way above the rate of inflation every year for 8 years.

        Offering nothing but contrived grievance when no justified grievance exists because apparently that politics.

        Corrupt to the core.

  2. “When I wrote for Labour Hame back last year about the need to increase council tax I”

    I personally have no problems at all if you want to pay more council tax in fact I actively encourage you to pay mine as well if you have a hankering to give more but don’t be so arrogant despotic and utterly corrupt as to advocate for the forced imposition of a greater tax burden on the rest of us than we already are forced to endure thanks in great part to past Labour Governments.

    I especially feel disgusted at the part where the people who supported and still support the principle of removing public services to the Private sector expect people to pay more for less public service.

    Its the very epitome of political criminal corruption to demand more FORCED payment for LESS!

    There is no justification no morality no decency in doing so. Just dogmatic greed dishonesty and corruption.

    The sooner you people are sent into the political wilderness the sooner we can get the chance to improve our standards of living.

    1. Mike,
      the Forth Road Bridge was jointly operated by Fife and Edinburgh councils. The SNP Gov forced it into the private sector and out of local democratic control. Did you oppose that too?

      1. I picked you up on that stupid bare faced lie before Scott. The responsibility for the maintenance of the bridge is still in the hands of the Scottish Government the ownership of the bridge is still in public hands. There is nothing private in the bridge at all.

        Having Private contractors do the work is not the same as leasing out the structure to the Private sector so it can make a personal profit on it as a business venture.

        That would be what Labour does.

  3. I see an article by the IFS highlights that local councils in England have faced real term cuts in funding of 23.4% between 2009/10 and 2014/15.
    I don’t know if that is also the case in Scotland, figures here appear to be a secret.
    However, Councillor Yates seems to think an increase of 7.5% from people who pay the council tax is acceptable. Many of these same people will be on relatively low wages, and certainly will not be getting a wage rise anywhere near 7.5%.
    That the councils who do this will lose a payment toward agreed targets ( its obviously not a “fine” ) from Central government is part and parcel of Yates illogical game of “chicken”. We know that last time Labour were in power, council taxes went through the roof ( 65% over a few years).
    Here we go again, is all I can say.
    They don’t even have the wit to put forth proposals for a new council tax, in the interest of fairness. The financial well being of ordinary people appears to be the last thing on Labour’s mind.

    1. Would it not be sensible to cut funding to local Councils as a direct result of having public services privatised?

      What infuriates me though is the fact that local taxation isn’t reduced as a direct result of losing public services to the private sector. That’s financial corruption.

  4. “Pick up the gun”

    Gavin you have picked up the gun and shot yourself in the foot if you think that the good folks of Fife and Scotland should pay more Council Tax so that pseudo left wing careerists like yourself can milk expenses from the good folks of Fife’s Council Tax, how much expenses have you milked from the Council Tax so far whilst masquerading as a councillor in the period 2015/16? Playing Russian roulette with the good folks of Fife’s income trying to squeeze their money for the Councillors expenses makes me feel queasy and know doubt the good folks of Fife will give you the well earned permenent holiday you deserve when they give you the boot at the next council elections.

      1. Teapot kettle black.

        You’re bare faced hypocrisy is almost as bad as your bare faced dishonesty.

      2. Grand oracle and soothsayer of Scotland you have picked up the gun and fired blanks or or I should say Dumb Dumb bullets what’s up with you Cheeky Chops got a wee touch of the union blues its a fact that Gringo Gavin has been filling his boots with the dollars of the good folks of Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay and is sucking up the Council Tax in the form of expenses with his Dyson hoover and his getting the boot at the next elections will be his just reward. Have you tuned into your chrstal ball to see what backstabbing Rowley is up to undermining Kez with more off the record briefings and trying to claim credit for her Warm Homes Act why don’t you Red Tory wimps support your leader instead of scheming behind her back are yous all scared of two faced undermining backstabbing Rowley some of yous weaklings should get some mettle and support Kez. I am hearing on the Tom Toms that a staunch advocate of the union has had a change of heart and is jumping ship in support of Scotland’s Independence with an announcement expected at the end of the week any ideas who? I am also hearing that the Scottish Labour section manifesto will state that it’s position on Scotland’s Independence is neutral and it is up to the individual members if this is the case it’s slowly slowly catch the monkey towards Scottish Independence so suck it up comrades and enjoy.

  5. Labour have lost the plot….

    With a 3.5% cut they exclaim the biggest cut to local authority budgets ever seen….while English councils are halfway through a 40% cut to budgets….seriously?

    With an independent study showing that the additional money from holyrood more than offset the freeze …the claim it is a fig leaf is a thin excuse

    Couple that with Jackie Baillie attacking an SNP mp for performing life saving breast cancer surgery during her holidays to cover a surgeon shortage…proclaiming it moonlighting …in a right wing Tory newspaper no less…….

    What use are labour now?

      1. IS that the same freeze that Glasgow city council planned to maintain until 2017 as their no1 priority?
        The freeze that Jackie Baillie said she’d keep at a public meeting?

        Labour are all over the place on this, and claiming that it is an affront to democracy because stipulations are placed on additional funding is hysterical….

        It has been more than funded to cover an in line with inflation rise and since Labour tended to hike it by around 5% that would mean bills would be 40% higher than now…

        Nothing has been cut so far …. efficient accounting allowed money to be better spent…

          1. <i?“Nothing has been cut so far”. "Breathtaking brainwashing."

            Easy tiger…you really go for the out of context emotional ad hom a lot – don’t you.

            Nothing was cut to maintain the freeze……the cuts came as a result of our better together pals (labour included) voting for austerity measures
            Councils have been compensated for the freeze by better than inflation…..
            Council budgets were held static for 2013-2014 and 2014 -2015 (no cuts – no brainwashing either)

            Dr Scotts “what’s being cut to fund it?” question was as usual a red herring and an attempt at misdirection – the answer he want’s is “poor little labour council’s budgets…that’s what”

            Which is, like most of Labour’s outpourings…..wrong!

            Austerity Gideon and Dave with their Labour enablers are slashing English Council budgets by up to 40%, and have slashed the Scottish Government’s budget by 10%…..

            That Labour are bleating about a 3.5% cut , after voting for the Fiscal responsibility Charter in January……is bizarre…
            That Labour’s first port of call is to hike up the tax we pay rather than deal with their own mess lacks responsibility
            The fact that Labour councils feel they should not share the burden with the rest of the coutry is…..simply breathtaking

          2. “Breathtaking brainwashing”

            El Capitano thanks for sharing the concept of Breathtaking brainwashing alhough it is a bit of a cheeky chops comment with no substance I could just as easily state that your comment is
            100% bullshine but does that make it right.

  6. “Jack Palance character in the 1950s Western ‘Shane’,”

    Gavin I think that instead of the movie above you refer to a more apt Jack Palace character would be the one or should I say two in the the 1968 movie “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde which has similarities to the Scottish Labour section I have broke them into two categories listed below:-

    Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde

    Labour Party Red Tories

    Party of the working class. Party of big business Muesil Munching North
    London set

    Hard working politicians. Skiving careerists

    Political Vocation Political Vocation
    used as a means to milk as much dosh as they
    can from tax payers by claiming expenses

  7. That is quite a headline for an article about tax rates. Is that how Labour councillors feel about the council tax freeze? “Pick up the gun.” I’m interested, did the author of the article or the editor of LH come up with it?

  8. It is a pleasure to add to some of the great screen cowboys like John Wayne, James Stewart, Audience Murphy the name of Gavin Yates otherwise known for his famous role as Two Ton Ted from Teddington and he drove the baker’s van to the cowboys hall of fame but apparently his name is an alias, the story goes that the stagecoach rumbled into Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay and out popped Kalamity Kez cracking her whip howdy partner hollowered an old timer Kalamity Kez replied eh old timer have you seen Gringo Gavin nope mutters the old timer try the saloon okey dokey and off goes Kalamity Kez, the saloon doors open and there follows a hush of silence and with his head slumped on the counter at the the end of the bar is Gringo Gavin Kalamity Kez cracks the whip on the bar and Gringo Gavin wakes up startled shouting so sorry so sorry Kalamity I didn’t mean to squeeze the good folks of Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay of all their hard earned dollars for my expenses, Kalamity Kez replies never mind that I have another great idea that I am going to kid the townsfolk with I will tell them all that they can all have garanteed heating and I will get the hole in the wall gang to get the money for this from the ATM using the card from the magic money tree account.

  9. My main problem with this article is, is labour for or against a “council tax freeze” because pass history appears to show them wants both within a few short months. Are they going to go to the voting public claiming they are in favour of a council tax freeze and yet at the same time claim local councils are being held hostage by the SNP for having a council tax freeze.

    labour are not the party to take a position and hold to it, or as my mither would say they hiv mare faces than the town clock, should be interesting.

    Tick Tock.

  10. A lot of Labour supporters seem to be favouring a raise in Council tax on this site, is this now official Labour policy & will you be campaigning for a Council tax increase during the Holyrood election campaign?

    I ask because if my memories not failing Labour went into the last 2 Holyrood elections supporting the council tax freeze, then immediately started to vociferously condemn it as soon as they lost.

    1. Your memory is sharp as ever…..

      Also Glasgow Labour campaigned for the freeze until 2017 as their No1 priority for the council elections in 2012…..

      Labour hope we forget every broken promise, every vote with the Tories, every abstention on difficult matters, every move to block and minimise the powers contained in the Smith recommendation and every single motion proposed by the SNP tat they opposed out of sheer spite

    2. Jim all Scottish Labour section Red Tories are welcome to adjust their position on Council Tax whilst out canvassing on the doorsteps to whatever suits them in favour or against its up to them to mix and match as long as they can fool some suckers into voting for the Scottish Labour section Red Tories that’s all that matters bearing in mind that Jehovah Witness canvassers are more popular than Scottish Labour section Red Tories on the doorstep any success will be more than welcome so they can keep up the good work.

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