Scottish councils call for power to raise own taxes
The four Scottish councils which form the Scottish Local Government Partnership (SLGP) have called for new tax-raising powers in a bid to alleviate the impact of funding cuts.
Aberdeen, Glasgow, Renfrewshire and South Lanarkshire councils are demanding powers to levy business rates, a tourism tax and want to be handed control over air passenger duty as part of moves to achieve “greater fiscal freedom” from the Scottish Government.
The local authorities, which split from the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) to form the SLGP in April 2015, had earlier threatened to take the Scottish Government to court if ministers continue to freeze them out of funding talks.
The plea comes as MSPs begin an investigation into the impact of funding cuts on councils. According to the Scottish Parliament, local government funding has fallen by 10 per cent since 2009/10.
As a result, the government has decided to delay the publication of its draft budget for 2017/18 until later this year.
The Local Government and Communities Committee has also committed to undertake pre-budget scrutiny, looking back at what has been spent over the last two years.
Jenny Laing, MP for Aberdeen and convener of the Scottish Local Government Partnership, told The Scotsman: “Councils have just suffered the biggest budget cuts in a generation and we know far worse is coming, as much as £1bn by 2020.
“Now we need greater fiscal freedom from the Scottish government which would allow us to raise money and drive our own economies.
“Tax-raising powers for business rates, a tourism levy and giving us the money from air passenger duty are just three ways we could offset the Tory-style austerity measures being imposed on us by the First Minister and her team.”
Laing urged the government: “Devolve tax-raising powers to councils now so we can shape and drive our own futures.”
Bob Doris, convener of the Local Government and Communities Committee, said: “With the Scottish government’s draft budget not due to be published until later this year, our committee is taking a look back at what has been spent on local government and housing over the last two years.
“Local government funding has fallen for five years. We want to establish how local authorities have managed these reductions and how they have impacted on services and service users.”