Working with East Lothian Labour Party and Iain Gray MSP, the Labour Group on East Lothian Council has launched a campaign against the SNP Government’s plans to claw back money raised locally from increases in the top council tax bands.
It was confirmed at a meeting of East Lothian Council this week that the council tax band increases, which are being implemented by the SNP Government, will result in around an additional £3 million being raised each year from taxpayers in East Lothian.
However, under SNP plans, the Council’s budget will be reduced by the same amount, robbing the authority of the opportunity to invest the extra funds in services here. It is believed that under the SNP’s plans to give schools attainment funding around £1 million will eventually come back to local schools, leaving a likely shortfall of around £2 million a year.
Labour activists took their campaign out to the streets in Haddington today and will be speaking to thousands of local residents about the council tax grab and the impact it will have on local services in the months ahead.
Labour Council leader Cllr Willie Innes has been highly critical of the plans. Speaking after the Council meeting Cllr Innes said:
“This SNP council tax grab is bad news for East Lothian residents. It means that council taxpayers will have to pay around £3 million extra each year, all of which will be clawed back by SNP Ministers to be spent elsewhere. This flies in the face of local democracy and makes a mockery of local taxation.
“An additional £3 million a year would enable us to invest in schools, social care and other services which have been hit by SNP Government cuts and the council tax freeze. The tax grab plans are just the latest example of the SNP’s obsession with central control at the expense of local decision-making.
"We want local communities to have a say about what happens to this funding rather than seeing it swallowed up and given to other parts of Scotland. East Lothian Labour councillors are clear – local tax raised in East Lothian should stay in East Lothian."
Local MSP Iain Gray has given the campaign his support, commenting:
“The SNP have promised time after time that they would abolish what they called the ‘hated’ council tax. Despite nearly ten years in office, including being a majority government for five years between 2011 and 2016, they have failed to deliver on this promise.
“Now their proposals for tinkering with the council tax bands are set to result in thousands of local households paying hundreds of pounds a year more without seeing the benefit of additional investment in local services. This undemocratic and unfair plan is the latest example of SNP Ministers leaving East Lothian at the back of the queue.
“I welcome the campaign that my Labour colleagues on East Lothian Council have launched to fight this council tax grab. I will be fighting for all of the additional funds raised to be invested in East Lothian, without being clawed back from the Council’s budget.”