Alba Party calls on Holyrood to fund council tax freeze 'to stop many households being pushed into poverty'
Alex Salmond’s Alba Party has called on the Scottish Government to fully fund a council tax freeze in upcoming local authority budgets – to help stymie the “completely unaffordable” impact on household purse strings of a jump in both the levy and energy bills.
The policy has been approved at a national executive committee meeting of the party, which said household budgets across Scotland face the prospect of electricity and gas bills jumping in April, with energy experts believing such expenses could rise by half.
Alba has echoed many fearing that much higher fuel bills will cause a cost of living crisis, especially as council tax is likely to rise across Scotland at the same time.
The call comes after the Scottish Government gave the green light to local councils to increase council tax at any level with no upper cap.
Alba – launched in March last year – says most councils are budgeting for an increase in council tax of at least 3 per cent, with some considering hikes of more than 5 per cent.
The pro-independence party says it wants the Scottish Government to increase the Local Government settlement to secure a deal with local authorities to freeze council tax increases – a policy it claims would cost £135 million and provide councils with the equivalent of a 4.5 per cent council tax increase. Salmond’s party says this would provide “assurance and certainty to households as people face unprecedented challenges”.
Alba added that it has been targeting household poverty as part of the upcoming council election campaign, having recently called on the UK Government to subsidise household energy bills by paying 50 per cent of those over a tariff cap, for example.
Mr Salmond said: “When Scotland previously faced financial pressures after the financial crash we successfully managed to fund a council tax freeze for several years under challenging circumstances. Since the council tax freeze ended we have already seen most councils increase council tax over and above inflation.
“People are now facing unprecedented challenges and extra pressures due to the coronavirus, however this year energy bills and other household bills are going to increase at a rate which are completely unaffordable for many families.
“If the decision is made to drop increases in council tax through letter boxes this spring alongside rises in energy bills, we will see many people pushed into poverty and many families unable to pay these costs. That is why we are today calling on the Scottish Government to fully fund a freeze in council tax.
“Taken together with our five-point plan to tackle child and family poverty, as well as our call to reduce household energy bills, these are the policies that are needed immediately to stop an imminent cost of living crisis.”
The former SNP leader recently criticised the SNP's lack of progress on independence amid a row over whether any future referendum should include a devo-max option, and took a dig at the SNP's 11-point “road map to a referendum” that was unveiled in January last year.