Scotland politics

MSPs call for council tax alternatives

Houses Image copyright PA
Image caption MSPs called for council tax alternatives to be put forward ahead of the 2017 local authority elections

An independent commission should be set up to look at alternatives to council tax in Scotland, Holyrood's local government committee has said.

Government "restrictions" on the 32 local authorities should be relaxed and they should have more power to raise money locally, MSPs also argued.

Scottish ministers previously tried to introduce local income tax, but the plans were abandoned.

The Scottish government said it was committed to working with councils.

In its report, the cross-party parliament committee said the commission should bring forward proposals on council tax alternatives in time for the next council elections, in 2017.

It added that, while the Scottish government had worked with councils to freeze the council tax, the report said: "We consider existing restrictions imposed centrally should be relaxed allowing local authorities to determine what is appropriate for local circumstances and what will further support local ambitions.

"We consider there should be a range of taxes or charges from which they should be free to choose to levy to meet local circumstances and needs."

Spending 'protected'

Local government committee convener, SNP MSP Kevin Stewart, said: "Finance is always a key factor and that is why we have suggested that, after the referendum, a cross-party commission should be established, with a view to a new system being identified before the next council elections in 2017."

Derek Mackay, the local government minister, said the SNP administration had protected council spending, while cutting budget "ring-fencing".

He said the government's new Community Empowerment Bill, currently going through parliament, would give more powers to local communities.

"We are committed to working in partnership with local government, and fully recognise the important role it plays in delivering public services," he said.

The Scottish government, during its first term in office, tried to replace the council tax with a 3p local income tax, but the plans were dropped after failing to find enough support in parliament.

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