Greens Bid To Force SNP Into Backing Council Tax Policy Criticism

3 November 2016, 06:41 | Updated: 3 November 2016, 07:08

The Greens will attempt to force the SNP into backing criticism of its own council tax policy at Holyrood.

MSPs are due to vote on a Scottish Government motion seeking approval for a measure to increase bills for more expensive homes.

Green MSP Andy Wightman has tabled an amendment which does not attempt to oppose the changes, but adds that the Parliament "regrets'' the proposals "undermine the principle of local accountability and autonomy and fail to address a number of issues identified by the Commission on Local Tax Reform''.

The amendment also "notes the opportunities to remedy this during the current session of Parliament, and considers that there should be further discussions by all parties to seek to establish an enduring system of local government finance''.

Labour is expected to back the amendment and, along with the Greens, will help the minority SNP administration vote through the final motion.

The Conservatives have indicated they will also back the amendment, only to vote against the motion.

The Government's proposals would see council tax increase for properties in the four highest bands, E to H.

The average band E household would pay about £2 per week more, and the average household in band H about #10 a week more.

The cash raised would be used to close the attainment gap in Scotland's schools.

Mr Wightman said: "Today's amendment aims to put on record the serious concerns expressed across the political parties, local government itself and the public service unions.''

He continued: "The Government cannot continue to ignore the main finding of the Commission on Local Tax Reform - council tax is discredited and must go.

"Most households are in the wrong band and paying the wrong amount, yet the Government's plans do not address this.

"And any local authority raising additional council tax revenue will be penalised through adjustments to the grants that make up the bulk of their funding.''

Scottish Labour deputy leader Alex Rowley said: "The SNP should think again on council tax.

"The nationalists' proposals have not been bold enough, ambitious enough, or frankly good enough.''

The Tories' Graham Simpson said: "The SNP are not only hitting hard-working families with higher taxes but they are also ensuring that local people do not feel any direct benefit from the money raised.''

Liberal Democrat MSP Mike Rumbles said: "Local taxation should be for local services - it's as simple as that.

"Instead of embedding the council tax in Scotland for another decade and seizing even more control over local government finance, the SNP should this week listen to their own advice and scrap it.''

The Scottish Government has put forward its own amendment stating the Parliament "recognises the importance of local accountability and autonomy in taxation'', and calls for further consideration of the recommendations of the commission and talks with parties to look at "an enduring system of local government finance''.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay said: "This vote is a real chance to raise a further £100 million in council tax from those who can most afford it, in order to pave the way for further investment in our schools and make local taxation fairer.

"Our reforms will make council tax more progressive and combined with our proposals on council tax benefit mean 75% of households will pay no more as a result of these changes.

"It is now time for the opposition to choose whether they are serious about working together to make local taxation better and fairer or if they are just interested in playing political games.''