Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Pay a pound a week more Council Tax to stop the cuts? The Independent group on Highland Council think that could be the answer

The Independent Group on Highland Council are calling for a 5% Council tax rise to stop the forthcoming cuts. See below their press release on the subject and a copy of a motion they intend to put to the Highland Council on the 18th of December

The 34-strong Independent Group at Highland Council is calling on the people of the Highlands to help protect the vital services that the SNP/LibDem/Lab coalition is willing to sacrifice in the name of austerity.

Cllr Carolyn Wilson, Leader of the Independent Group said: 

"Despite the recent announcement of a u-turn on the length of the school day by Cllr Maxine Smith, Budget Leader on behalf of the SNP/LibDem/Lab coalition, we are still extremely concerned about the lack of clarity around the shortening of the school day. Her comments that this will only be a delay offers no reassurance to the public and parents that this has indeed gone away. The postponement just leaves it hanging over parents for the next round of cuts. And the unanswered question remains: what other services will they slash instead?”

The administration is pursuing swathing cuts to education and other front line services including pools, libraries and winter gritting along with large rises in car parking that will damage our fragile High Street towns and villages, all against the wishes of Highland residents. The political parties seem willing to agree these without thinking about the impact on our Highland communities.
“We have come up with proposals to safeguard a wide range of these services that people are telling us they value and want protected. Today we are announcing our intention to end the SNP seven year imposed council tax freeze, and instead raise it by an average of a pound a week for a Band C property, which would generate over £5 million. This would work out at less than £5 per month and would end nearly a decade of cuts to frontline services that are damaging to the Highlands.
Cllr Wilson added: “The funds raised by ending the council tax freeze, along with alternative savings we have identified, would enable the Council to save many vital services including the shortening of the school day, the cut in teacher numbers, car parking charges, winter gritting and facilities such as libraries, pools and leisure centres.”

"The feedback we have received from people over the last few weeks is that they would be willing to make this extra contribution to protect their children's and their communities' future.”

Cllr Jaci Douglas, Deputy Leader of the opposition said:

"For the majority of Highlanders this means protecting schools and vital services for pennies a day. We believe that without a properly funded education system we will put our children’s ability to learn and progress at risk, which has the potential to bring about a long-term decline in standards and achievement. People also deserve certainty about the future of their jobs and their communities -- and the only way to do this is to take responsibility, be brave and stand up to the damaging council tax freeze that has seen frontline services cut again and again.

There have been some councillors from political parties within the current coalition who are on record supporting the end to the ongoing council tax freeze.

Cllr Wilson added: “Over the coming weeks we will be revealing the other savings we propose, which can be put against other proposed cuts such as winter gritting, community and third sector cuts amongst others. For today it’s important to reassure communities that the Independent Group is fighting for schools, pools and libraries and that we understand and recognise the vital importance of these services to our Highland communities. 

We’re saying 'enough is enough' because we cannot stand by and watch our communities eroded by political parties who are too busy taking direction from the SNP Government at Holyrood rather than focussing on local needs here in the Highlands."

"Independent Group
Motion to Highland Council
Thursday 18th December

The Independent Group believe it is time that Highland Council ends the unsustainable and damaging council tax freeze. This has resulted in 7 years of detrimental cuts to frontline services in the Highlands.

We propose that the Highland Council agree to a 5% rise in Council Tax which will mean approximately a £1 per week increase for Band C Properties, and this income should be used to protect frontline services.


· Budget consultation has been rushed and ill though out which has caused unnecessary worry and anxiety to the public, parents and teachers.

· There has been no attempt to prioritise essential services and protect those in the frontline such as schools and pools.

· The Independent Group has also identified other common sense savings that will help avoid the proposed cuts to essential frontline services being put forward by the SNP/Lib Dem/Lab coalition.

· The Independent Group believe that councillors themselves should be leading by example and agreeing cuts to enhanced pay and expenses.

· A small council tax rise will save some of our most vital and valued frontline services which are essential to maintain the vibrancy of the Highlands.

· The Independent Group are taking a responsible courageous stance by proposing the end to the council tax freeze and call on councillors from all parties to put the Highlands, not their politics, first.

· We implore the Scottish Government to reconsider its threat to impose a penalty on councils who decide to raise the council tax.We ask them to use their discretion to reconsider and allow this £3.5m to be kept for the benefit of the Highland Community.


Anonymous said...

Maybe the councillors and senior officials could take a cut in their generous income.

Anonymous said...

I run a household budget where every pound counts. I'm very sorry to hear about some of the cuts that might be coming but making people pay more tax is unfair. SOme of us really scrape together to put food on the table each day. I only hvae internet access because my neighbour is hugely generous and lets me use her wi fi. Many of us are like Highland Council short of cash, where do I go to get an extra £52 a year?

Anonymous said...

Just a bit of political street theatre from a desperate bunch.

Anonymous said...

hmm cut the number of Councillors, and therefore their expense accounts, offices, wages, car allowance etc etc.

Anonymous said...


before there is any increase in council tax we need to be told exactly where is our money is being spent and remember it is our money we are talking about this needs to be done by a independent body as everyone knows you will never get turkeys to vote for Christmas

Anonymous said...

The average pay rise last year was £1 a week, that means some people got £2 and others zero

Many politicians don't live in the real world that for many that means part time work, zero hours or benefits

Please tell us as to what cuts we're supposed to make to be able find an extra £52 a year

Anonymous said...

These are just the first cuts there will be many, many more. We will have to pay another £1 per week every time? Want to see the future take a look at Newcastle

Anonymous said...

Last years councillors expenses came to nearly £1.5m, that equates to nearly £28k per week and on average some councillors are "earning" approx. £350 per week for what to many will be a 2nd job. Now I ask myself, are we getting value for money and my answer is not a chance. But these are the folk that WILL demand we pay more for our services.

Graisg said...

How do you work out the approx £350 per week anon. Have you got an example?

MisterRealist said...

What a load of whingeing moaning minnies ! All you people who plead poverty are the same people buying cigarettes and tobacco to burn away while claiming your benefits. A pound a week is most definitely affordable for all people who currently pay council tax.
Yes I quite agree that there are too many Highland council managers, heads of department and politicians that are overpaid. The creation of the area committees has just been another vehicle for paying the politicians an extra and totally unnecessary income for sitting about on the backsides and talking and doing little else.
But come on you so called lower paid and benefit claimants, make a sacrifice like everyone else and stop this nonsense.
You can blame Westminster all you like but the Scottish government has the power to raise taxes and £1 pound a week is not unreasonable for anyone. Yet again the SNP are trying to be the so called popular party. It is their popularist policies that are causing part of this problem and they have the power to do something about it.
I am a pensioner but I would most certainly make a sacrifice of £1 a week....now stop this whingeing and help this country and your local community instead of ruining it like the SNP seem hell bent on doing.

One wonders if the full content of this will get published given the political allegiance of the Gurn.
And while I'm at it .......surely no one in their right mind can support and vote for the airhead Liz MacDonald being a candidate for Westminster. Mind you she fools most people into thinking that anything good and successful happening around Nairn has been either her idea or somehow she has waved a magic wand and actually achieved something for this town. Ha what a joke !

The real reality said...

@ MisterRealist

Glad to see the Gurn has a Tory reader

I wonder as to how you'd feel if council tax was means tested and therefore you were going to be asked to pay an extra £100 a week or so, not so keen then eh!

It's obvious you've never had to live on benefits. I was severely disabled in an accident and I can tell you every penny let alone every pound counts

As for the SNP. It may have escaped your notice that the people of Scotland voted for them overwhelmingly in the last Scottish elections so they must be doing something right, and all polls suggest a record number of voters will choose the SNP when it comes to the Westminster election next May. The figures speak for themselves

The Scottish parliament does not as yet have full tax raising powers. You might remember that the three main Westminster parties made a vow a couple of days before the referendum that was to have started the day after, it didn't and we've been left with the Smith commission (broken promises), so we await further powers including tax

As you seem to have plenty of funds at your disposal why don't you start giving the Highland Council a £1 a week, I'm sure they'd be delighted at your charity and so would I

You seem to like to tar everyone with the same brush but just to let you know I'm the exception in your hostile view of those on benefits. I don't smoke or drink. It might surprise you to know I couldn't afford to

But it's coming to the season of goodwill so might I wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope Santa brings you your political party of choice in the New Year

Anonymous said...

Manager bashing is a double edged sword. If you want value for many and reduced waste it needs good management. Though not saying the existing management is good. Also £1a week will be little to some and crushing to others, shame there's a lack of respect shown by some. The main issue is grant freezes and political mandates even £1 a week is a drop in the ocean. Plus the council's plan has council tax increases for most of the 5 years so it is mostly posturing anyway.

Greg said...

There is some merit in raising taxes but I don't think the 5% proposed will be nearly enough. Lots of people could afford to pay more. I for one would pay a lot more if it meant keeping or improving services, it's just that raising council tax isn't necessarily the way fairest way to do this - some people can't afford it. The Scottish government already has the power to vary the UK rate of income tax up or down by 3p in the pound. It was part of the Scotland Act 1998, which established the Scottish Parliament, but has never been used. Why not ? Because the SNP are scared it would be unpopular, and the name of the game is popularity, not taking tough decisions. It's easier to blame everything on Westminster.

MisterRealist said...

@ the real reality Yet more inconsistent and inaccurate nonsense just like the SNP cronies always spout. I wouldn't call a vote from a third of the electorate as overwhelming. In reality most voters rejected the SNP but we are stuck with the idealistic popularist party who will do anything to get votes and stay in government.
Yet again the figures don't add up - just like in that well known tome of fiction the YES vote white paper.
And please do not assume I am a Tory reader (or voter). I have never voted Tory in my life and I don't expect I ever will.
I actually voted SNP last time in the local elections because I thought that our local SNP councillors would actually achieve something for Nairn. How wrong I was - it certainly won't happen again !

And real reality, as I said I am a pensioner. Certainly means test me and everyone else including all the Tory multi-millionaires that David Cameron has in his cabinet. And don't forget the multi-income politicians like Alex Salmond as well. I would be quite pleased to pay more from my meagre government pension to stop these cuts which affect the low income people, disabled and disadvantaged in our society.
You have really missed the point ----- as I said the people that currently pay Council Tax could afford to pay more whether it be £1 a week or means tested as you seem to prefer.
Our services cost more to deliver !
Why freeze the Council Tax which raises the money to pay for these services. Sheer stupidity !!!

The real reality said...


Oh dear, amazing bile for the SNP from someone who allegedly voted for them in recent history. So you’re now either Labour or Lib Dem? Doubt you’ll show your true colours!

Not sure what you expect of any council in the time of austerity, only around 20% of council income is derived from the council tax anyway

You make the huge assumption that all those who pay council tax can afford to pay more, why? I would suggest that you really do need to consider joining and supporting the Tories who are all in favour of further taxing the poor (bedroom tax ring any bells)

A small point but important point about Alec Salmond. As FM he paid a large part of his salary to charity and now also pays his entire FM pension to good causes, please name another Scottish politician who’s done this?

You yourself would make a very good (bad) politician as you seem to like twisting words rather than giving straight answers, might we see you standing anytime soon or are you just a keyboard general

Council cuts will affect poorer folk in our society but your argument is non-sensical as you’re suggesting that they pay more tax to avoid the cuts, this would in turn would mean they’re less well off?

I’m still waiting to hear of your generosity in paying an extra £1 a week to Highland Council or are you all mouth and no wallet

I still wish you a Merry Christmas

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that there is much agreement that cuts in public services are not welcome. I highlight information about the damage of austerity cuts between 2008-2014 in the Republic of Ireland (source UNITE union):
For every 100 jobs lost in the public sector, 170 jobs were lost throughout the economy;
For every €100 million cuts in public sector pay, consumer spending falls by over €76 million;
For every €100 million cuts in public services, GDP falls by nearly €120 million while the deficit falls by less than €20 million.
The dilemma facing every household in the Highlands is what funding mechanism will be the fairest way to safeguard local services. There are exemptions and discounts in place within the Council Tax legislation. Like many others I have also not had a pay rise for many years. Despite this freeze on wages I believe the only way to safeguard local services and avoid much wider impacts is to bite the bullet and increase the Council tax by a level equivalent to inflation (1.2%).
Well done Gurn for kicking off this debate!

Anonymous said...

Let's hope Nicola fully funds future mandates rather than kicking the councils whilst they're down

Anonymous said...

Always money for bombs though isn't there?

Anonymous said...

Greg@1.13 said "The Scottish government already has the power to vary the UK rate of income tax up or down by 3p in the pound. It was part of the Scotland Act 1998, which established the Scottish Parliament, but has never been used. Why not ? Because the SNP are scared it would be unpopular, and the name of the game is popularity, not taking tough decisions. It's easier to blame everything on Westminster.". If that's the case why didn't the previous Labour/LibDem coalition which ruled from 1999 to 2007 take advantage while they had the chance?

MisterRealist said...

@the real reality
Perhaps you should re-read what you have written.
Instead of making personal comments and rather strange and wildly inaccurate assumptions about me and my personal situation (financial and otherwise) and political allegiance (I have none); just return to the main point behind this thread.
Pay a pound a week to stop the councils cuts.
You are still missing this the main point of this dicussion !
The £1 per week proposed raise in the Council Tax by the Independent opposition group is for Band C. It would be smaller for Bands A and B and obviously greater for Bands D and above.
Apart from that (as another more enlightened Gurn reader has pointed out) there is legislation for exemptions and discounts.
It is of no importance that only 20% of council income is derived from council tax; the point is that a 5% average rise in council tax would go a long way to stopping these savage cuts.
The cost of delivering services increases every year. How on earth is a freeze in Council Tax going to help.
As I said before sheer stupidity !

PS....Anyway, why should I care. I'll be cashing my stocks and shares dividend cheques, collecting rent from my many properties that I let out on a multi-occupancy basis, paying this income into my Swiss bank account along with my government pension and sunning myself in the French Polynesian Islands over the next few months. Happy Christmas Real Reality !

Anonymous said...

quite right mr.realist,well spoken,,give yourself a nice pay tise for all your efforts.and keep up the good work,,ohhhh,and send a postcard to,c/o.the gurn for all the readers.
have a merry xmas.

Graisg said...

@ anon re weekend working etc, you will have to be more specific than that. Please e-mail info@gurnnurn.com

Graisg said...

@ anon re tenders - again a need for more info - please e-mail.

Anonymous said...

Well said MisterRealist how anyone can think you can pay the same council tax for seven years and expect the service from the council is beyond me. Another SNP dreamer