Council tax changes will hit Edinburgh hardest - Iain Whyte

Inverleith Councillor Iain WhyteInverleith Councillor Iain Whyte
Inverleith Councillor Iain Whyte
In the latest instalment of its “Eat the Rich” approach, the SNP/Green Scottish Government has launched a “consultation” on changes to council tax bands – changes that could see 100,000 Edinburgh households in band E to H properties pay up to £800 extra next year on top of any annual increase.

Given the current cost of living problems it’s no wonder Ministers sneaked this out in the middle of the summer holidays - they clearly don’t want the views of residents of higher banded properties.

The proposals show a fundamental misunderstanding of the principles of Council Tax. While it is a property-based tax it was never intended to act in the way the old rates did. It replaced the Community Charge and was set up specifically to balance the problems of Rates and Community Charge.

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Payment is partly a charge on property value and partly a charge for the services the household uses. The single person discount exemplifies this by helping those who use few services and may be cash poor but could conceivably live in a high band property – e.g. a single pensioner.

This SNP plan would very specifically punish Edinburgh people. Picture: John DevlinThis SNP plan would very specifically punish Edinburgh people. Picture: John Devlin
This SNP plan would very specifically punish Edinburgh people. Picture: John Devlin

The multipliers between bands were never intended to increase entirely in proportion with the value of the property because service usage doesn’t increase in that way. Higher value properties also tend to be owned by people who pay far more income tax and VAT. These people are already contributing far more to Council services as this tax funds the Government grants that are over 65 per cent of Council funding.

This SNP plan would very specifically punish Edinburgh people – some at random. That’s because properties built since the 1990s have been assessed in higher Council Tax bands compared to similar sized and priced traditional properties. Similar two bed, 80m2 flats currently for sale at around £325,000 near the City Centre vary in Council Tax band from B to F. Some would see huge increases on high Band F costs and others none.

The SNP previously hiked the bands for E to H properties in 2017. That made Edinburgh one of the highest taxed parts of Scotland because we have far more properties in these higher bands than most other Scottish Councils (38% compared to the Scottish average of 25 per cent and a low in the Western Isles of 11 per cent). This penalises everyone in Edinburgh because the Scottish Government reduces our grant support and gives it to Councils with few high band homes. We regularly get the lowest funding per head in Scotland and the changes could make that worse.

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The purported reason for the change is to make the system “fairer”, but the Scottish Government’s own consultation document shows that relative fairness is already achieved from their Council Tax Reduction scheme for low-income households.

Given all this evidence I can only think that any changes to Council Tax are simply about hiking rates on the families who already pay most of the tax paid in Scotland. All at a time when they can least afford it. This is bad news for those hard-working families and extra bad news if they live in Edinburgh.

Please respond to this madcap SNP/Green consultation with a resounding No. And remind the SNP that any failures are all their own doing given that they promised to “abolish Council Tax” way back in 2007.

Councillor Iain Whyte is Conservative group leader on City of Edinburgh Council

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