SNP Youth conference urges @scotgov to back council tax replacement and reform

Nathanael Williams

Youth wing of the governing party calls for councils to be given powers to raise more of their own money

THE SNP YOUTH have backed a motion at their Spring Conference in Edinburgh calling for a fairer replacement to the current council tax system.

It was passed over the weekend when young members of the party gathered to decide the direction of the youth of the party and hammer out key policy positions which differ from the party proper.

Although commending the Scottish Government on its attempts to make households in more expensive properties pay more council tax, the SNP Youth also that it was key to have a system based on ability to pay.

This relates to arguments that suggest raising council tax based on the price band of a property would catch our older citizens who have capital invested in their property but nowhere else to afford a reformed tax.

“We need an entirely new system of local taxation that ensures that those with the ability to pay do so.” Rory Steel

Rory Steel, vice-convener of SNP Youth and proposer of the motion said: “The Scottish Government has already taken great steps to ensure that those in the highest council tax bands pay more. But the current system is still unfit for purpose in the long term.

“We need an entirely new system of local taxation that ensures that those with the ability to pay do so. It is also essential that greater powers and responsibility is given to local authorities to raise their own income. This will allows communities to tailor their taxes to meet their local needs and will ensure greater accountability.

“We believe there is still an appetite across Scotland and between parties to replace the Council Tax. All parties should work together to find a suitable replacement that will empower people to make the big decisions in their communities.”

The Scottish Government and the SNP’s senior figures have wanted to replace the council tax since 2007 but practical measures have fallen short. At the start of its period of government, it did advocate a “local income tax” replacement which would have raised income tax by 3p. Holyrood initially backed this idea but the Scottish Government failed to gain a majority for the finer details of the proposed changes.

Since then a council tax freeze has been in place which the government plan to continue until the end of this year. Political opponents such as Scottish Labour have criticised this policy as damaging to local services and also characteristics of the “centralising nature” of government under the SNP.

The council tax was introduced in 1993 to replace the controversial “community charge”, known as the poll tax which on its introduction cause riots in London which led to the then UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s resignation. There was mass non-payment across Scotland.

Despite its name the council tax does not actually pay for councils and only provides about a fifth of their budget. The council tax is more of a property tax than a personal tax.

Table showing changes in council tax payment to be brought in by Scottish Government from April 2017

Critics of the Scottish Government such as the Scottish Green party have called for quicker and in their words more radical reform of the council tax system.

Lothian MSP and prominent local democracy campaigner Andy Wightman argued last year in Holyrood’s reforming local taxation debate that the council tax system was outdated and as a result most properties in Scotland are in the wrong band.

The Greens, before the last Holyrood elections, proposed a gradual move towards a locally-controlled residential property tax based on updated values. These would have a system of reliefs and deferrals built in to avoid the problem of those with expensive properties by low assets in other areas. The tax would be based on the value of the land alone.

In fact, Wightman has gone on record as saying: “After nine years of the council tax freeze there is now cross-party consensus that the system is broken. Bold change is needed. It’s time for a fair local tax.”

Picture courtesy of Young Scots for Independence, Scottish Government

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