Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Would the Council Tax rise out of control under Lib Dem policy?

The Lib Dems in the Highlands are calling for the power to set their own Council Tax rates to be restored to Highland Council and Danny Alexander put forward a motion at Westminster to this effect signed by other north Lib Dem MP's. There were claims that the Council Tax would rise by 20% immediately in the Highlands if this were passed. A lot gets lost in the politicking but here is the P&J's take on the situation. And here is Danny's Early Day Motion to the House of Commons in full.

The Courier in calling for a fair deal for the Highlands also seems to be backing calls for Highland Council to be allowed to set its own tax.

'The council tax freeze may sound good, but in fact it is costing the Highlands much needed money. It is also unfair, because the richest people get the biggest benefit. The council tax freeze has given £800 to the wealthiest Scots, but only a few pence a week to the poorest. Like the Tories, the SNP's policy is helping the wealthiest most, while the poorest will be hit hardest by the service cuts Holyrood is imposing at arms length.'

More on the Courier's postition here. Now I wish to disagree with the Courier, many families on modest incomes that struggle to keep their heads above water find that the Council tax is still one of the biggest burdens on their household budgets. The temptation for Highland Council to continually raise the tax would be just too much and the Scottish Government's initiative to freeze the tax protects us all from the Council. There are no easy solutions but further tax on those many thousands of Highlanders who are struggling to keep their own finances afloat is not the answer. Danny Alexander, Charles Kennedy and John Thurso could afford a 20% rise in their council tax, could you? Come on Danny think of another solution please.


Common sense said...

The effective cut in council tax by the freeze put in place by the SNP will certainly see a cut in services provided by the council. The geography that the Highland Council has to cover is large and therefore incurs higher costs for the likes of transport and fuel compared to other areas. Very few members of the public would support a massive hike in the tax, and the Lib Dem call for this is likely to be a vote looser. Other measures need to be taken, there are many to choose from
Would it be too radical to introduce public led savings? We are being encouraged to recycle and yet as I make my trip to Nairn’s recycle centre I don’t see any incentive other than a thank you sign for my fuel-consuming journey. Rationally you could argue that I’m helping to keep council tax lower, but what about people who just don’t bother to recycle?
As I do recycle I reckon my green wheelie bin might need empting just once every six weeks (I appreciate that for heath reasons that it might need to be emptied more frequently than that) but how about a reduction in council tax for those of us who opt to have our bins emptied every two weeks.
Nairn recycle plant really needs to be moved back to Station Park as it was surely poorly thought out planning for it to be miles out of town on the Grantown Road, but again could we not be encouraged to recycle by a reduction in the council tax that we pay?
I’m sure there are other areas whereby the council could save money without much thought, paperless billing for example?
Mind you, they would probably have to hire consultants for all this so all savings would be lost, plainly common sense would never do!

Anonymous said...

Big Government is generally bad and seeks to get bigger, never smaller. Council Tax is not there to fund more and more esoteric and grandiose schemes to give the players (Councillors and fuctionaries) a stage to strut on and career opportunities. Let us get back to providing the essential services and cut out the rest.

Anonymous said...

After next year's 10% rise we'll have seen a 21% increase in harbour dues over the last two years. The Highland Council have a taste for it.

Anonymous said...

Re Harbour dues... anything but anything that the council can hike up in charges is going to happen. As you've mentioned not once but several times.
Despite us all being encouraged to take up sport expect to see price rises in all council run leisure activities, then there is parking, and no doubt a very long short list of what else they can raise much needed monies from.
Probably seems very unfair if you are a harbour user but nearly all boats in Nairn harbour are there for leisure

Anonymous said...

Like you say, there's a lot of smoke and mirrors here.

If the Lib Dems really wanted to put Council Tax up by 20% they (and the independents if they agree) could just do it. That is what Highland Council currently has the power to do.

Surely what they are arguing is that forcing a 20% hike, or no increase at all, is effectively taking away the council's power to choose.

The choice in the past might have been between a 2 or 3% tax increase or introducing charges for particular services. Council Tax has lots wrong with it (not least the valuations) but a small council tax increase may well be fairer than charging those who rely on particular services.