Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Taxing Times for Labour

The Labour Party has been scathing in recent weeks about the SNP’s proposals to scrap the Council Tax and replace it with an income based alternative. It’s been described variously by Labour spokespeople as a tax rise for low earners (Not so - 90% would pay the same or less); and as a tax against small businesses (Again, not so - businesses pay separate business rates, not council tax or the SNP’s proposed replacement).

The argument for a local income tax is a simple one. Essentially, the value of your property bears little or no relation to your ability to contribute towards meeting the costs of the local services we all use. And if you are on a low income or live on your own, despite the various ‘reliefs’ which exist, the tax can still represent a very large proportion of your overall income.

Labour knows this, which is why wee Jack is waffling at the moment about including ‘extra bands’ for the Council Tax, in order to make it fairer. The trouble is, including more bands would do no such thing, since the general rise in house prices since the last revaluation would move only a small number of homes up or down a band relative to where they sit currently. It would do nothing to counter the ability to pay argument which is currently driving the debate forward. And the killer for Labour is that as history shows, property tax revaluations are about as popular with the voters as a fart in a space-suit.

Labour’s arguments don’t seem to be cutting much ice just now, since according to SNP polling, 71% of voters want to see the Council Tax gone. This is most likely why the Edinburgh Labour Party has made a very welcome concession in its local manifesto, where with commendable candour, it states that:

“The other big expense for everyone is Council Tax… …we know that Council Tax, as it is organised at the moment, isn’t always fair, with poor people paying a larger proportion of their income than rich people.

Sounds like an argument for a local income tax to me. Trouble is, notwithstanding this display of local disquiet, Edinburgh Labour is running on the same commitment to keep the Council Tax as wee Jack and the rest of the Labour Party. Despite this plaintive plea for mercy from Labour’s Embra Cooncillors, the fact remains that the only way to get rid of the Council Tax is to get rid of Labour. Period.

No comments: