Holyrood raising tax bills
the Scottish Government’s changes is that they aren’t being straight with taxpayers.
Instead of using their powers to adjust the Scottish rate of income tax, to bring in more money for the government to spend, they are forcing councils to do the dirty work for them by dipping into people’s pockets.
To be clear: any additional money collected by the 32 Scottish councils, including South Lanarkshire, effectively will be removed by the Scottish Government by cutting our annual grants by the same sum.
Scottish ministers will then decide how and where in the country the £100m is spent. They have indicated that schools will be the priority but we don’t yet know how the money would be allocated and what it will go on.
As readers will know, South Lanarkshire Council has already rebuilt all our secondary schools and we are nearly finished our primary schools modernisation programme.
I estimate the changes mean the people of South Lanarkshire will hand almost £6m more to the Scottish Government next year with no guarantee on how much might come back.
I’m not sure why the Scottish Government even thinks it needs to raise this extra tax from you. After all, we found out at the weekend that last year they had almost £400m left over by the time they had finished spending their budget and that follows a pattern of annual underspends.
However, they have decided they want to raise more taxes, they have decided to do that by increasing the overall take from council tax and councils have no choice other than to pass that on in the form of higher bills.
South Lanarkshire Council, for one, will continue to help residents get any council tax reductions they are entitled to, especially pensioners. We are also working hard to avoid any other increase in council tax, even though the Scottish Government has now also scrapped the freeze.
As I say, I have no problem with the principle of a fair and progressive tax system which is used to pay for good public services but this change by the Scottish Government isn’t fair.
It is also not fair to you because it breaks one of the basic tenets of government: that taxation should be linked to representation. In other words, the person who is asking you to pay more tax should be accountable for it at the ballot box.
I hope you all remember that when your council tax bills come in next year and also when you come to cast your votes at elections, starting with the council elections in May.