Unison calls for property tax reform in Scotland

‘Significant’ property taxes are needed to help boost local government funding in Scotland, according to a new report.

The report by Unison and the Jimmy Reid Foundation calls for a ‘fairer’ system, which will shift the tax burden onto property and land owners and away from council tax payers.

It claims such a shift would make the tax system in Scotland more ‘progressive’ and based on ability to pay.

The report says the current council tax system in Scotland is regressive and based on out-of-date property evaluations.

It adds ‘significant’ property taxes are essential to local government funding.

The report also calls on the Scottish Parliament and councils to look at how new taxes can be introduced to support include inclusive economic growth.

It states that special attention should be paid to help programmes around changing behaviours and overcoming market failures.

The report also shows that total revenue funding for councils has fallen by 8% in real terms across the last eight years.

While spending on education and social care has been relatively protected, the report warns Scottish councils have made substantial cuts in other areas, including a 22% reduction in culture and leisure spendingand a 34% reduction in planning.

‘Within the constraints of the fiscal powers devolved under successive Scotland Acts, there are still some opportunities to generate greater funding for public services locally,’ said report lead author, Professor Mike Danson.

‘Some changes will require time to explore, plan and introduce but it is economically efficient and effective to shift the tax burden onto property and land owners and away from council taxpayers, making the tax system more progressive and more based on ability to pay.’

The Scottish secretary of Unison, Mike Kirby, added: ‘Over the years, the balance of funding for public services through local government has shifted from approximately 50% coming from national government to 50% being raised directly by local authorities, to 85% of funding coming from central government and 15% being raised directly by local authorities.

‘Together with an overall reduction in funding, during a period of austerity, this has resulted, in severe financial pressures and impacted upon, the quality and delivery of vital public services. Politicians in all spheres must create the time and space for a fundamental review of funding local government. This report is a contribution, to that essential debate.’

The full report can be read here.

Photo by Tama66 (Pixabay)

Jamie Hailstone
Senior reporter - NewStart


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