21 August 2015

The Commission on Local Tax Reform – established jointly by the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) – has today (21 August) published an independent analysis of responses received to its written call for evidence.

More than two-thirds of respondents think that the current system of Council Tax is unfair, but opinion is split on the best way of achieving reform.

Respondents to the call for evidence perceived the Council Tax to be unfair for a number of reasons, which included:

  • Many respondents felt council tax is regressive, with poorer households paying proportionately more than richer households and not clearly linked to the ability to pay
  • Many felt that it impacts negatively on vulnerable households, with families with children, older people, disabled people and carers more likely to be impacted negatively
  • Respondents also said that there needed to be a stronger link with local democracy, with more tax raised at a local level and a greater understanding that council tax and non-domestic rates presently account for a small proportion of overall local government funding

They also identified the efficiency and stability of the present system as key features that should be retained in any alternative future system of local taxation.

However, opinion was split on alternatives to the Council Tax, with a reformed local property tax, local income tax and land value tax the three main options highlighted.

A majority of the more than 200 respondents also suggested that there was a disconnect between local priorities and the way that local taxation is operated, suggesting that local government should raise more of what it spends.

Commenting on the findings, Marco Biagi MSP, Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment and co-chair of the Commission, said:  “The findings of our formal call for evidence suggest very strongly that there are a majority of people in Scotland who agree that the current system of Council Tax is unfair and in need of reform.

“However, what is also clear is that there are a wide range of opinions as to what a potential replacement for the present system would look like and operate, echoing many of the views that we have heard from the more than 4,000 people who have engaged with us so far.

“The Commission takes the findings of this analysis very seriously and we will use these to shape a report that that will allow everyone to understand what any alternative local taxation systems would mean to the people of Scotland.”

Councillor David O’Neill, President of COSLA and Commission co-chair, added: “It is clear that there are a lot of different opinions out there as to what might constitute a fairer way of paying for local government.

“By engaging with as many people and organisations as possible, through this call for evidence, questionnaire and public engagement events, we are making sure that the views of people the length and breadth of Scotland are a fundamental pillar of our efforts to set out a range of alternative tax models that can be considered by whichever government is formed next May.”

The Commission is currently undertaking a series of events to engage with communities across Scotland and assess perceptions of its emerging findings ahead of the launch of its report in the autumn.

Download the Independent Analysis of the Call for Written Evidence.