Thursday, March 15, 2007

SNP unveils scheme to replace council tax

Couple of things of interest in the SNP's latest version of what they've been promising to do for some time.

1) By Nicola Sturgeon's own admission, the 'local' income tax isn't going to be local at all but national in the "short and medium term". I would tend to agree with those criticising this on the grounds that it would reduce local accountability. There's precious little of this just now; we can't really afford to be losing anymore.

2) It's designed to be a handout to the median voter. Sturgeon even used the phrase 'middle Scotland'. Didn't know there was such a place.

3) Some of Labour's criticisms struck me as being a little odd. Tom McCabe, for example, said:
"[T]hey are now reintroducing elements of Margaret Thatcher's poll tax, in that every worker in a household will now pay this tax."
True - but this wasn't, I don't think, what people felt was unfair about the poll tax. The idea that every worker should pay a local tax seems reasonable since it is not bricks and mortar but people who consume local services, whereas the council tax works on the assumption that they do. Or at least that the value of someone's house is reasonably closely related to their income - which, as many pensioners will tell you, ain't necessarily so. Rather, what most people thought was unfair about the poll tax was its regressive nature.

4) But the SNP's assumptions do seem to echo those of the Thatcherites in that they are banking on the tax being held low. There doesn't even have to be a 'black-hole' in their present spending plans for there to be some doubt as to whether the SNP are wise to assume only those in the top income decile would pay more. It's a very rough and ready calculation I've done but at 3 pence in the pound, a couple who earned the median wage and lived in a house in the same council tax band as me would find their bill would be a hundred quid or so more than it would be if they paid the council tax at the rate it has been set for 2006-7. And Glasgow has the highest council tax in the country.

You could argue that a couple on the median wage should pay more but this isn't the basis on which the SNP are selling this tax.

They deny that there's a 'black-hole' in their spending plans, claiming any shortfall will be met by 'efficiency savings' in the Scottish Executive. Efficiency savings? Yeah, that's gonna happen.

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