When the SNP say ‘reform’, they mean people paying more - Kevin Lang

We will scrap the unfair council tax”. Remember that? Across huge billboards, on leaflets through your letterbox, on TV election broadcasts; the promise that helped sweep the SNP into government for the first time in 2007.
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond with their 2007 party messageNicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond with their 2007 party message
Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond with their 2007 party message

So, 16 years on, how are they getting on? Well, the council tax bill which landed at your home earlier this year probably answers that question.

One of the many promises which the SNP has failed to deliver after more than a decade in office.

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But, wait. A new Scottish Government consultation emerged last month on “reforming” the council tax. Was this, at last, action to deliver their 16-year outstanding commitment?

Cllr Kevin Lang (Lib Dem)Cllr Kevin Lang (Lib Dem)
Cllr Kevin Lang (Lib Dem)

Well, not quite. In fact, not even close. When the SNP say “reform”, what they mean is “people paying more”.

Under their plans, folks living in a band E to H property will face a massive hike in their annual bills, some by as much as 22 per cent.

Yes, that’s right, a consultation on racking up bills in the middle of the worst cost of living crisis in a generation.

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It’s a tax change that will hit Edinburgh particularly hard. COSLA, the body representing local councils says one in every five households in the Capital would end up having to pay more under these “reforms”. This is way more than the Scottish average.

Worse still, it’s unlikely to even make a difference to what the council can spend. One of the biggest misunderstandings of local councils is that they’re funded entirely or mostly from council tax. It was a misapprehension I had too before I became a councillor.

The reality is that only around a quarter of Edinburgh Council’s budget is paid for from council tax income.

The vast bulk is funded through the central grant allocated by the Scottish Government every year. This is a grant which SNP and Green Ministers continue to cut, year after year, an approach which risks the delivery of key services.

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So, even if these SNP and Green council tax “reforms” get the green light, their current approach means any extra money raised would be offset by their ongoing cuts to core funding. It means people will literally be paying more for less.

These changes will also likely embed council tax for another decade. So much for “scrapping the council tax”. It is clear that, under the SNP, the council tax is here to stay and going to cost many people more.

It is high time that SNP and Green Ministers recognised the importance of local councils delivering public services locally.

Education in our schools, fixing our roads and pavements, social care, protecting our parks and green spaces, there is so much that needs to be done.

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However, instead of funding the council properly, the SNP and Greens have this summer fig-leaf of a consultation on council tax to try to hide the savage cuts they chose to make each year to council funding.

I doubt you’ll see that on an SNP billboard come the next election.

Kevin Lang is the leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Edinburgh Council

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