Council Tax Freeze (2011-12)

Scottish Executive Question Time — Finance and Sustainable Growth – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 7th October 2010.

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Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative 2:15 pm, 7th October 2010

To ask the Scottish Executive what its position is on supporting a council tax freeze in 2011-12. (S3O-11571)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government's clear preference is to extend the council tax freeze for a further year in 2011-12. Following the independent budget review, we are discussing the issue with our local authority partners and other stakeholders.

Photo of Murdo Fraser Murdo Fraser Conservative

The cabinet secretary should be clear that, in that ambition, he will have the support of the Scottish Conservatives. Does he agree that, as hard-working families across Scotland struggle with the consequences of Labour's recession, they would welcome a council tax freeze for a further year? Will he join me in condemning a Labour Party that is determined to hit those hard-working families with punishing council tax increases at a time when they can least afford to pay them?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I am not sure that I would venture on to such party-political ground on such a harmonious Thursday afternoon in the city of Edinburgh and our national Parliament. However, there is some substance in Mr Fraser's remark, which is a pleasant change.

One of the other issues with which members of the public are wrestling is the question of increased VAT, which, if my memory serves me correctly, was a product of the decision making of the Conservative-Liberal coalition in the United Kingdom Government.

The council tax freeze has been of enormous benefit to members of the public. It has protected them from the exponential increases in the council tax that took place under the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrat-Labour Executives. Thankfully, the council tax has been frozen since this Government came into office in 2007.

Photo of David Whitton David Whitton Labour

I was goaded into getting to my feet by Mr Fraser, whose knowledge of international economics could be written on the back of a stamp. As we all know, it was not Labour's recession; there was a global recession.

As far as council tax goes, we should not be surprised at the unholy alliance that is now emerging between the Tories and the Scottish National Party, because we are getting into budget negotiation time and that is usually what happens.

What does the cabinet secretary say to members of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, including SNP councillors, who are urging him to drop the council tax freeze?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I am always intrigued by Mr Whitton's assessment of the unholy alliances that exist. The last time I looked, in East Dunbartonshire Council—[ Interruption .] I think that my friends in the Liberal Democrats know where I am going here. In East Dunbartonshire Council—

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I am always grateful for help from the back benches. In East Dunbartonshire Council—the council area for which Mr Whitton is a member of Parliament—there is an unholy alliance between the Labour Party and the Conservatives in freezing out the SNP from the administration.

There are many examples of the necessity of political co-operation in this new political world that we all occupy.

I say to Mr Whitton that I am discussing the issue of a council tax freeze with our local authority partners and will continue to do so.

Photo of Jeremy Purvis Jeremy Purvis Liberal Democrat

Has the Scottish Government carried out an estimate of who has gained most from the council tax freeze—families in the lowest income decile or families in the highest income decile?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

Mr Purvis will know that we have published much analysis on that point. All citizens who pay the council tax will have appreciated that the council tax has not increased at all since this Government came to power—the citizens and council tax payers of Scotland will have welcomed that.