Councillors at odds over Council Tax increase

Wednesday September 28th 2016

Midlothian Council Webcast

Phil Bowen, editor

Yesterday at the Full Council meeting SNP and Labour Councillors were at odds over Council tax increases.

The Scottish Government have put forward a policy such that council tax will rise for properties in Bands E to H from April 2017. In Midlothian this is expected to raise an additional £1.7 million.

However, in an unprecedented move the Scottish Government are also mandating to councils that this additional money must be spent on education around the country based on the Free School meals provision. As such the likelihood is that a majority of the additional Midlothian Council Tax money, at least £0.9 million, will be sent to schools outside Midlothian.

During the meeting SNP Councillor Kelly Parry, Cabinet Member for Finance said that “Midlothian would be no worse of as a result of this policy”.

Commenting to Midlothian View today Councillor Parry added

“Reforms to council tax will protect household incomes, make local taxation fairer and ensure local authorities continue to be properly funded while becoming more accountable.

There will be no change for three out of four Scottish households in terms of how much council tax they pay as a result.

The reforms will play their part in improving the life chances of Scotland’s young people, giving our children the best possible start in life and ensuring a more prosperous nation.

I’m surprised that asking those with the broadest shoulders to fund that programme sits badly the Labour party.

Just a few years ago Scottish Labour harped on about pooling and sharing resources whilst Labour run councils squandered cash and made a mess of their education provision.

Perhaps they should have got their own houses in order so that we weren’t in this situation but we must now do what we can to ensure the life chances of all Scottish Children are improved.

In Midlothian we have made profound and unprecedented leaps in attainment levels since the SNP Administration took over, undoing the damage that Scottish Labour have done to our communities for decades.”

Labour Councillors blasted the SNP administration in Midlothian for supporting the move.

Labour Group Leader, Derek Milligan said to Midlothian View:

“This is a direct attack on local democracy and sets a dangerous precedent. Local Council taxes have always been used locally. Monies raised through council tax should be staying here to fund our schools, care homes and other vital services that have been starved of funding by the Scottish Government.

We fully support the prioritising of resources by the Government to areas of greatest need, but they should be doing this with nationally raised taxes, not by stealing local taxes for that purpose.

Labour Councillor Jim Muirhead said.

“Once again SNP Councillors in Midlothian, like the finance spokesperson Kelly Parry, simply toe the line handed down by their masters in Holyrood, even where it is detrimental to the interests of our own county.

We have Kelly Parry, either blindly following instructions from on high, or completely failing to understand what is happening, when she argues that Midlothian Council will be no worse off by the move. Midlothian Council tax payers will be £1.7 million pounds worse off and only £700k of this will be kept here in Midlothian”

Want to see for yourself what was said in yesterday’s debate then you can via the council’s webcast service by clicking HERE.

You can go straight to the discussion by choosing section “8.4 Financial Strategy 2017-18 to 2020-21 – Report by Head of Finance and Integrated Service Support” on the right hand side.

Midlothian Council are striving to make Council more transparent to residents of Midlothian and the webcast is a great opportunity for people to see exactly what happens.

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