Midlothian Council Tax to rise but be spent outside the county

Saturday September 24th 2016

Midlothian Council Fairfield House Main

Phil Bowen, Midlothian View editor

In papers prepared ahead of the full council meeting on Tuesday, Midlothian Council report that the majority of planned Midlothian Council Tax increases will not be spent in Midlothian but in other ares of the country due to the Scottish Government proposals of where the increased money should be spent.

The papers forecast a Council Tax increase of 3% across all council tax bands in Midlothian which is expected to generate an additional £1.2 million per annum and and would result in Band D Council Tax rising to £1,246 in 2017/18 and to £1,403 by 2021/22.

For Midlothian the reform of Council Tax Bands E to H is expected to generate £1.7 million, shown in the table below.

Band E Band F Band G Band H
Equivalent No. of Dwellings 4145 2925 1861 159
Existing Council Tax £1,479 £1,748 £2,017 £2,420
Increased Council Tax £1,585 £1,972 £2,372 £2,965
Increase £107 £225 £355 £545
Percentage Increase 7.3% 12.8% 17.5% 22.5%

 
Note this is before a 3% increase across all bands is applied.

The additional income, estimated at £109 million nationally, will in effect be removed from Councils with the Scottish Goverment Government indicating that £9 million will be distributed to offset the additional Council Tax reduction costs with the remaining £100 million distributed directly to schools around the country based on Free School Meals eligibility.

As such the likelihood is that a majority of the additional Midlothian Council Tax money will be sent to schools outside Midlothian.

The Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES) view is that the distribution proposed by the Scottish Government for the £100 million using free School meals data will disadvantage particular parts of the country. ADES have submitted an alternative approach to Government for consideration.

Even under ADES alternative Midlothian’s allocation would only be £0.8 million meaning that £0.9 million of Midlothian Council Tax money (53% of the increase) would in effect be distributed to schools in other Council areas.

Commenting Green Councillor Ian Baxter said to Midlothian View, “This would appear to be another part of the SNP’s centralising agenda. They centralised the Police and Fire services and are now coming for the councils. We’re seeing more and more decisions taken out of the hands of local authorities and made by Scottish Government ministers and I fear this will become a pretext for merging or abolishing local councils altogether”.

Labour Group Leader, Councillor Derek Milligan said, “For years the SNP have been arguing against the Council Tax, referring to it grossly unfair and promising to replace it. Instead we have them simply tinkering with the banding and doing it in a way that seriously undermines local democracy. Using Local Government to raise funds for National priorities is completely wrong.

Why should local taxes collected in Midlothian be spent on local services for Glasgow?

Targeting spending on areas of the Country that need it most is fair enough, but this should come from central resources not from Midlothian Council Tax payers who will be paying an extra £1.7m in Council Tax, more than £1m of which will be spent by the Scottish Government priorities rather than on our local schools, libraries and other services.”

Midlothian View also asked Willie Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, for comment, Mr Rennie said “The SNP’s council tax grab will pile even more pressure on local budgets. Taking this money out of Midlothian will not help recruit a single additional teacher or support other council services.

“Extra funding for education is essential. The Scottish Government’s record on closing the attainment gap in education is poor. But if the SNP want to introduce a national policy then it should be paid for out of central government funds. They should not tie the hands of councils by cutting local funding in this way.”

 

The full council meeting takes place next Tuesday 27th at 2pm. You can watch live or catch-up later at www.midlothian.gov.uk/webcasts

You can read the full report on the council website HERE

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