CSPP’s Richard Kerley: Uncertain Future for Council Tax After Talks

(CSPP) - CSPP Chair Richard Kerley was interviewed on Good Morning Scotland yesterday regarding the latest talks between the Scottish Government and local authorities’ umbrella group COSLA over the financial incentives councils receive to maintain the current council tax freeze – and the sanctions they would face if they raised tax levels. The talks were organised after several councils were reportedly considering raising tax rates for the first time since the freeze began in 2007.

Professor Kerley explained, “What’s probably caused the most recent furore is the extent to which the Cabinet Secretary (John Swinney MSP)…has wrapped together a number of items of additional funding, and said that if you break the line on any one of these, you won’t get any of them. The calculation that a lot of councils were making…was a presumption that if councils propose to increase the council tax – which they are still entitled to do – then they would lose the incentive payment that had stood the tax still for a number of years".

He continued, “Now (the Cabinet Secretary) is throwing in the additional money for social care and teacher numbers as contingent on freezing the council tax. It (the freeze) has moved from being just a carrot to a carrot and a stick at the same time”.

The CSPP Chair, who is also a professor emeritus of management at Queen Margaret University, stated that councils had been considering a significant rise in council tax rates prior to the discussions, however the proposed 18% tax rise by Moral Council was now likely “dead in the water”.

With the Commission on Local Tax Reform proposing that the council tax be replaced, the CSPP Chair also suggested that it is only a matter of time before an alternative tax is designed and implemented. Nonetheless, he said that it is still not clear what alternative will be found that is “acceptable to a broad majority of the population”.

Professor Kerley also warned that while councils may have to continue to cut in response to public spending reductions, this could have a negative impact on services and be unpopular with the public.

The full interview, from (02:36:00), can be heard on BBC iPlayer Radio - Good Morning Scotland.

The CSPP regularly contributes to the national policy debate. You can also listen to our Vice Chair, Amy Dalrymple, interviewed on current affairs show Scotland 2016 last week on childcare funding and the European Union Referendum.  

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