Commission seeks greater tax raising powers for councils

Moray Council

Moray Council should be given greater tax-raising powers with full control of a range of property taxes and the freedom to set taxation to suit local circumstances.

That is one of the suggestions being put forward in a report by the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy, who insist that giving communities the democratic power to look after their own financial affairs is “fundamental”.

Currently local authorities in Scotland raise 18% of their income locally as opposed to the 50% they were raising 50 years ago.

Major changes came in 1974 when 200 local councils were merged into just 32 – described in the report as “one of the most radical programmes of delocalisation that we can identify anywhere in the world”.

Now the commission are proposing several models for the future, including a single-tier system with a number of smaller local government units responsible for services that can be governed, planned and delivered at a local level.

An alternative suggestion in the report is that the 32 local councils have another tier below them consisting of local community governments with responsibility for community services.

The report says that change needs to be made regardless of the outcome in September’s independence referendum.

Chair for the commission is Councillor David O’Neill, who said: “Over the decades Scotland has become perhaps one of the most centralised countries in Europe.

“Today the argument is no longer about whether Scotland is out of step with other modern democracies – instead, it is between those who think that this is acceptable and those who believe that it must change.

“The question is about what democracy should be like in years to come.”

The final report can be read on the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy website.

Leave a comment