Is the minister aware that council tax in Scotland has increased by 62 per cent in the past seven years, and by 72 per cent in Scotland's poorest city, Glasgow? Is he aware that the council tax is unfair because it hammers pensioners and low-paid Scots while pampering the wealthy and the millionaires? Does he agree that it is time to replace the unfair council tax with an income-based tax in order to redistribute wealth in Scotland?
No, I do not agree with the member. The real-terms increase in council tax levels since 1997-98 is 12.9 per cent. I congratulate 30 out 32 of our local authorities for maintaining the indicative levels for their council tax increases.
I do not support the tax system that the member wants to introduce, which would undermine accountability and lead to fiscal flight. Two people on the average wage would pay more under Tommy Sheridan's scheme, which would ignore the assistance that council tax benefit gives people in need. His system would be unstable, unsound and complex, and the tax would be expensive to collect.
The council tax system delivers for Scotland's communities. It delivers a tax that is easy to collect and that allows our local authorities to provide
If the Executive is unwilling to consider radical council tax reform immediately, will it consider at least restructuring the banding system to eradicate unfair anomalies whereby people whose houses have widely varying values pay the same amount of council tax? Would it not be fairer to introduce more bands?
As the member probably knows, council tax revaluation is scheduled to be undertaken in Wales in 2005, in England in 2007 and at 10-year intervals after that. Scotland's non-domestic rate revaluation will take place in 2005. Between now and then, we will consider the implications of the measures that have been described. However, we do not intend to take action. We must get the non-domestic rate revaluation out of the way before the Executive considers whether there are any other measures that it wishes to take.