Council Tax Debt

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 5th March 2020.

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The First Minister:

Well, well, well. If council budgets are under pressure, it is because of a decade of Tory austerity. I note that local government budgets are under considerably less pressure in Scotland than in England, where the Tories are in government, because of the relative protection that we have been able to provide. This afternoon, we will seek the approval of this Parliament for a budget that delivers a real-terms increase in the funding that is available to our local councils.

Council tax in Scotland was of course frozen under the SNP Government for a decade. Today, as I said, the average band D council tax rate is, literally, £500 lower in Scotland than in England. We continue to provide support to people on low incomes, which is unlike what happens in England. In January 2019, the Institute for Fiscal Studies commented on localised council tax support schemes in England, where—I remind members—the Conservatives are in government. The IFS said:

“This is the first time since the poll tax that many of the lowest-income households have been required to pay local tax.”

That is shameful, but that is the reality of Tory Government.

By contrast, the SNP Scottish Government keeps council tax bills lower than in England and we provide support to low-income households, which is why most people continue to prefer the SNP over the Conservative Party.