Council tax - time for change!

Co-chairs of the report, President of COSLA, Councillor David O'Neil and Marco Biagi MSP
Co-chairs of the report, President of COSLA, Councillor David O'Neil and Marco Biagi MSP
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The present Council Tax system should be abolished and its replacement should be fairer, more progressive and more locally empowering.

Those were the conclusions of the cross-party Commission on Local Tax Reform, established jointly by the Scottish Government and Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), after it published its final report, Just Change: A New Approach to Local Taxation.

The Commission highlighted that its very membership - encompassing four political parties, local and central government, and experts in public finance, law, housing, welfare and equalities is a unique and bold statement of intent, which created “an opportunity not to be missed”.

The Commission, however, did not advocate any single alternative to the present system, highlighting that “there is no one ideal local tax”.

In making the case for change, the Commission examined three alternative types of tax system that could be applied at the local level to replace the present Council Tax - taxes on property, taxes on land and taxes on income.

Their analysis extended to the potential impact of each on different households and how the tax might be administered.

They also considered the impact each would have on the financial accountability of Local Government, concluding that “a well-designed local tax system drawing revenue from multiple sources would provide more options for local democracy, delivering greater financial accountability and autonomy to Local Government.”

They expect their report to inform the development of alternative local taxation policies which will be put to the electorate in the Scottish Parliamentary election in May 2016, recognising that political parties will attach different weights to the considerations for each alternative local tax.

The report did not set out tax rates or recommend levels of taxation.

Welcoming the report, Marco Biagi MSP, minister for local government and community empowerment and co-chairman of the commission said: “In publishing the report, we put to the Scottish people the most comprehensive quantitative analysis ever undertaken to understand the links between different forms of local taxation, backed by an extensive programme of public engagement.’’