My local council, which until the recent local authority elections was a Labour-led council, chose not to raise council tax, despite years of asking the Scottish Government to lift the council tax freeze.
How much money would a council tax rise have provided for local public services to spend?
By freezing the council tax in 2017-18, South Lanarkshire Council decided to forgo £4.2 million, reducing its overall potential increase in support for local services. Although that is of course a matter for local government and for that local authority, it is in sharp contrast to what Labour said previously.
Does the cabinet secretary agree that Clare Haughey is entirely wrong in what she said about South Lanarkshire Council? It was the policy of the council not to increase council tax rates and it stuck to that, as was its right. Does he agree first, on that factual point and, secondly, that it is not for the Scottish Government to give a view on whether councils should increase council tax rates?
I am not sure that Graham Simpson listened to my answer to Clare Haughey before he asked his question. I made the point that it was a matter for local government and for South Lanarkshire Council. I simply pointed out that the Labour Party had said for years that the council tax freeze was unsustainable, but when it was in a position to increase the tax, it froze it. I was simply pointing out the absurdity of the position of the Labour Party on that council.
For completeness, I note that there were many other Labour authorities that chose to freeze the council tax, which I think helps to make the point that the local government settlement was fair, because it put councils in a position in which they felt that they could do that.