All the signs are that the property market is recovering in Edinburgh and the Lothians and we should be grateful for that. Plenty people are still in negative equity, however, and if you are one of those unfortunate people who has recently had to start paying the bedroom tax or are facing eviction because of it, I suspect you don’t give a stuff about a property boom.
Thanks to the enlightened approach of the SNP Government, owner occupiers have not had a council tax increase since 2007 – I remind you, as I always do when writing about politics, that I am a member of the SNP.
The council tax freeze means that local authorities have not been able to raise cash in the way they used to – ie getting the mug council taxpayers to stump up. There are also plenty other cuts due to the dastardly Westminster Government.
Local government staff have just had a one per cent pay increase imposed on them, and plenty people will grudge them that rise, especially those who have seen wage cuts and redundancies at their workplace.
I accept that local authorities such as Edinburgh need to raise more money, and I have recently been looking at a way in which councils might just do that. It will require the Scottish Government to impose a new national arrangement, one that will significantly affect some householders in Edinburgh.
The present council tax banding system is well out of date. The lowest band A is for property worth “less than £27,000” and unless you are living in a garden hut or an outside toilet I suspect there isn’t a single property in Edinburgh worth under that sum.
Band D – supposedly the “mean” band from which the other bandings are calculated – is a mere £45,001 to £58,000, while the top band H is for properties worth “above £212,000”. The council tax charge for such a Band H house at the moment is £2338 a year, which on the face of it is quite steep. Band G covers properties from £106,000 to £212,000 and the charge is £1948 so you are quids in if your house is assessed at £211,999, and £390 worse off if your house is valued at £1 more.
The fact is that there are a lot of properties in Edinburgh selling for a damn sight more than £212,000 at the moment and I have never understood why the bandings did not go all the way up to band X, Y and Z with a whopping big charge being imposed on those with houses worth in excess of £1 million.
So let’s have realistic bandings and make those with more expensive houses pay much more than they do at present.
What’s that I hear you say? That would be terribly unfair?
Yes it would, because even low earners and elderly folk on a pension can live in high-priced houses. But how much more unfair is it to make poor people pay through the nose for having what is deemed an “extra” room or rooms in their houses?
Apart from scrapping the bedroom tax because it is immoral and iniquitous, the answer to all these problems is a proper local income tax calculated on how much you earn and taking into account your ability to pay. It is the only fair way forward.