Consultation on a ‘Fairer Council Tax’

thumbnail of Fairer Council Tax Consultation Response Sept 23

This is the UNISON Scotland response to the Scottish Government and COSLA Consultation on a Fairer Council Tax.

The proposals in this consultation are to raise higher band council tax bills, providing increased funds to local authorities.

While we broadly agree with the changes, there is important context to note in giving qualified approval.

The SNP were elected in 2007 promising to scrap Scotland’s “unfair” council tax and replace it with a local income tax. The Scottish Government dropped that plan but has since totally failed to address the need for sustainable local government funding. Instead, it has added to the serious problems by underfunding councils, starting with the nine-year council tax freeze[1] and continuing in more recent years to the current state of crisis for local authorities; including the current local government pay dispute, with furious UNISON members working in schools from Stranraer to Shetland set to take three days of strike action in late Sept.[2], [3], [4]

UNISON would not describe the proposed changes in this consultation as constituting a ‘fairer council tax’ for many reasons; the biggest being that the council tax continues to be extremely unfair and there are no proposals on the table to replace it. It is a disgrace if we are looking at years more of this regressive tax, which is fundamentally flawed and is based on property values last assessed in 1991!

These proposed changes may be marginally better than currently, and we were among those who have called for such changes as being among a range of options for raising income for local government.[5],[6] But they do not make enough difference to justify calling it ‘a fairer council tax’. We would argue that that attempted framing is disingenuous, as the description obscures the true situation.

Increased income for local government is essential to provide quality public services, delivered by a workforce with decent pay and conditions. Our members have worked incredibly hard through the pandemic but now need to see proper levels of funding for local government and proper pay rises, especially in a cost-of-living crisis, instead of constantly being asked to do more with fewer staff and fewer resources. (For more detail on the local government funding crisis and the impacts on staff, see the oral evidence given on Tuesday 19 September by UNISON Scotland (with STUC and GMB colleagues) to the Local Government, Housing and Planning Committee on pre-Budget scrutiny, looking at workforce planning.[7])

UNISON urges the Scottish Government and COSLA to prioritise reform urgently, replacing the council tax with a progressive property tax.

If together they do not deliver improved pay and conditions for staff now and in future years and a sustainable form of funding for local government as soon as possible, it will show just how little the Verity House Agreement means and the work of the Joint Working Group on Sources of Local Government Funding and Council Tax Reform will be a failure.


Click the document image above for our full response and answers to the consultation questions.