Greens To Call For Council Tax Revaulation

22 September 2016, 08:45 | Updated: 22 September 2016, 08:46

The Scottish Greens will today press for a council tax revaluation when MSPs debate reform of local taxation at Holyrood.

Andy Wightman, Lothian MSP and local democracy campaigner, will put forward an alternative proposal reflecting that most properties are in the wrong band.

A revaluation is not part of plans for higher charges proposed by the Scottish Government to bring in an extra £100 million a year for schools.

Under the reforms, set out by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in March, the average band E household will pay about £2 more per week, with those in the highest band paying an extra £10 a week - an average of £517 a year.

The changes follow a report by the Commission on Local Tax Reform which last year called for an end to the council tax and urged politicians to implement a fairer, more progressive and transparent tax to fund local services.

In the run-up to May's Holyrood election, the Greens proposed a gradual move towards a locally-controlled residential property tax based on up-to-date values with a system of reliefs and deferrals.

Mr Wightman said: "Greens believe the government's package of reform is timid and fails to meet the ambitions set out by the Commission on Local Tax Reform, whose first recommendation was that 'the present council tax system must end'. It's shocking that it has taken ten months to debate the commission's findings.

"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.

"While our proposals are to scrap the discredited tax and replace it with a residential property tax, today I am publishing an alternative statutory instrument - the Council Tax (Substitution of Proportion and Valuation_ (Scottish Green Party) (Scotland) Order 2016 - that demonstrates how the system can be made substantially fairer by more closely reflecting property valuations and by mandating a revaluation.

"At the very least, any reforms require a revaluation given current bills are based on values a quarter of a century old. And rather than sticking to just eight bands, why not have a greater number of bands so that properties of similar value aren't paying wildly different charges?''

"Councils are being denied their right to vary tax locally and spend revenues on local priorities.''

Scottish Labour accused the SNP of breaking a promise to scrap council tax ahead of the Scottish Government debate.

Labour wants to abolish the council tax and replace it with a property-based system under which 80% of households would pay less.

The party's economy spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: "A decade on from promising to scrap the council tax, all the SNP are proposing to do now is to scrap the council-tax freeze. That isn't big enough or bold enough.

"The SNP should work with Scottish Labour to abolish the council tax completely and replace it with a fairer property-based system which would see 80% of households pay less.

"Naomi Eistenstadt, the SNP government's own poverty adviser, called for them to be bold on local tax reform.

"The SNP face a choice, they can work with Labour to scrap the council tax or they can work with the Tories to scrap the council tax freeze.''

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "Where we have the powers to do so, we are making taxation fairer and more proportionate to the ability to pay while also raising additional revenue.

"That is why we are proposing progressive reforms to local taxation which will, over the lifetime of this Parliament, raise an additional £500 million to invest in raising educational attainment.

"Our reforms to the council tax will protect household incomes, make local taxation fairer and ensure local authorities continue to be properly funded while becoming more accountable.''