I have touched before upon the short-fall in local authority funding with the Scottish Government imposed freeze of council tax which has been in place since 2007. Well, not exactly imposed in the sense of legally enshrined, but certainly encouraged through the threat of with-holding other funds.
In addition to cases being brought by Unison, Scottish Labour under Johann Lamont has been muttering for some time about the situation in which the more well-heeled areas save on council tax whilst those lower on the socio-economic scale lose through cut-backs to front line services: holes which, it would appear, cannot be plugged because of central Government’s failure to ring-fence poverty reduction funds.
That said, no matter how reasonable it might have seemed to me, this struck me as somewhat cynical given that during the recent by-election in Dunfermline – which Labour regained comfortably – much was made of the first council tax freeze having been initiated by a Labour-controlled local authority.
Following these latest comments, various SNP figures have returned to her August 2012 dismissal of a “something for nothing” attitude, and the Party’s official website has seized upon the apparent excising of this speech from the Labour Party website. If so, it would be a level of e-illiteracy last seen with Stephen Deans’ use of his Ineos e-mail account to conduct non-sanctioned union activity. I have a memory of a similar event in which the transcript of a speech by Alex Salmond exulting one of the soon-to-be financial failures going AWOL on the official website when, in fact, there merely had been spring-cleaning and new HTML pointers inserted (although the immediate recourse to outrage and vituperation by Salmond at his probity being questioned did not help for his credibility when the substance of the charge was shown to accurate.)
SNP figures have been referring to an opinion poll on the council tax policy returning 82% satisfaction and only 8% disagreement. The Snp.org article points to this being carried-out by the Wings Over Scotland blog using the Panelbase platform, discussed in part here. WoS, like any amateur blog, will have its own biases and should not really be held to account for that; and John Curtice provides a charitable overview of the poll.
Although the affirmative response to the question on continued freeze on council tax may seem resounding, I expect most people would say uh-huh to a simple yes/no on continued tax savings and nuh-huh to rises. If it were phrased in terms of would they accept cuts to front-line services (which they themselves use) it may well be different.
It may well be true that Lamont is unable to offer credible alternatives to the inefficiencies in the council tax system, but simply keeping it frozen until at least 2015 is not going to help the inevitable need to raise more funds for local services.