National and Devolved Politics

15.04.19

Calls for ‘fundamental review’ of Scottish councils’ funding system with new property levies

A new system of environmental and property levies has been proposed to boost council funding in a call for a “fundamental review” of Scottish local government finances.

The joint paper, launched by trade union Unison and the Jimmy Reid Foundation, sets outs a number of recommendations for a “fairer system” of funding and levies in order to increase and expand local public services in Scotland.

The new report’s proposals include the introduction of new levies, increasing backroom staff to crack down on tax avoidance and bringing more public services such as buses and energy into council hands.

Mike Kirby, the Scottish secretary of Unison, said that the balance of funding for public services has shifted from 50:50 between central government funding and money raised by local authorities to 85:15.

He commented: “Together with an overall reduction in funding, during a period of austerity, this has resulted in severe financial pressures and impacted upon the quality and delivery of vital public services.

“Politicians in all spheres must create the time and space for a fundamental review of funding local government. This report is a contribution to that essential debate.”

Recommendations in the report include increasing taxes on second homes, passing council debts onto the Treasury, seeking alternatives to the Small Business bonus scheme, and seeking more effective support for private and social enterprises.

Cosla, which represents Scotland’s 32 regional authorities, welcomed the report and reiterated its belief that “the current model is not sustainable.”

“Undoubtedly there is a funding issue for local government and we are happy to engage in any debate that gives us more funding and flexibility to deliver essential services for our communities.”

Mike Danson, lead author of the report which was launched at the Scottish Trades Union Congress in Dundee, said: “Within the constraints of the fiscal powers devolved under successive Scotland Acts, there are still some opportunities to generate greater funding for public services locally.

“Some changes will require time to explore, plan and introduce but it is economically efficient and effective to shift the tax burden onto property and land owners and away from council taxpayers, making the tax system more progressive and more based on ability to pay.”ou

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