Fresh calls for Labour to clarify council tax stance as another senior Labour politician attacks freeze

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  By Martin Kelly
 
The Labour party is facing fresh calls to clarify its stance on the council tax freeze ahead of a crucial by-election after another leading Scottish Labour politician admitted being against the popular policy.
 
Stephen McCabe, who is the leader of Inverclyde Council, has found himself at the centre of a row after the Labour councillor launched an attack on the council tax freeze calling the SNP flagship policy “fundamentally undemocratic”.

  By Martin Kelly
 
The Labour party is facing fresh calls to clarify its stance on the council tax freeze ahead of a crucial by-election after another leading Scottish Labour politician admitted being against the popular policy.
 
Stephen McCabe, who is the leader of Inverclyde Council, has found himself at the centre of a row after the Labour councillor launched an attack on the council tax freeze calling the SNP flagship policy “fundamentally undemocratic”.

Speaking to the Greenock Telegraph, McCabe criticised the SNP who he said wanted to “dictate council tax levels”.

In a subsequent tweet, the Labour council leader confirmed he was against the council tax freeze, saying: “No I don’t support the undemocratic council tax freeze…”

However the SNP has accused Scottish Labour of being “all over the place” on the issue after it emerged Mr McCabe had actively campaigned in the Cowdenbeath by-election alongside Labour activists handing out party leaflets pledging support for the freeze.

The comments from the senior Labour councillor have resulted in fresh calls from the SNP for clarity from Scottish Labour on its stance on the council tax freeze.

Mr McCabe is the latest senior Scottish Labour politician to voice his opposition to the council tax freeze.  Others to have made their opposition to a freeze clear include Mr McCabe’s party leader Johann Lamont MSP, party front bencher Jackie Baillie MSP and Labour’s Glasgow Council Leader Gordon Matheson.

The policy has emerged as a key issue in the contest for the Cowdenbeath constituency after Labour’s candidate Alex Rowley was filmed suggesting the tax should be increased to raise more money.  However Rowley was later filmed by STV and, when asked, denied having made the comments.

Embarrassingly for the Labour candidate, both interviews were later published on youtube.

Despite his earlier objections to the freeze and admission that raising it was an option, Rowley’s campaign leaflets claim full support for the SNP policy.

Stuart McMillan, SNP MSP for the West of Scotland, said:

“Labour are over the place when it comes to the Council Tax freeze – they say one thing in their by-election campaign material, and the exact opposite elsewhere.

“Just like the Labour candidate in Cowdenbeath constituency – Fife Council leader Alex Rowley – the Labour leader of Inverclyde Council has also admitted that he is against the Council Tax freeze. If Labour thought that they could get away with it, they would hike people’s Council Tax – just like they used to before the SNP’s freeze policy.

“As his Twitter profile will testify, Councillor McCabe is spending a great deal of time campaigning in Cowdenbeath constituency, where he is delivering leaflets claiming that the Council Tax freeze – which he is publicly opposed to – is Labour Party policy! It is a dishonest shambles.

“When the SNP were first elected in 2007, Labour were totally opposed to the Council Tax freeze – just as Councillor McCabe clearly still is, despite hypocritically giving out leaflets claiming the opposite.”

However, compounding his party’s difficulty over the issue, councillor McCabe then went onto twitter to distance himself from his party’s campaign the leaflets.  In a later tweet, he said: “Made 3 visits to Cowdenbeath. Not once did I deliver a leaflet that mentioned Council Tax Freeze.”

The Labour councillor then bizarrely claimed he would actually propose a council tax freeze for Inverclyde on February 20th.

Mr McMillan added: “As a point of fact, Councillor McCabe could have increased the Council Tax if he really wanted to – there is nothing to stop him – but he hasn’t because the freeze is fully funded by the Scottish Government, and he knows that it is massively popular in Inverclyde, Fife and throughout Scotland.

“People in Cowdenbeath constituency will save more than £1,600 by 2016/17 thanks to the SNP’s Council Tax freeze – money in their pockets and in the local economy that Labour would strip from households.

“Only a vote for the SNP in this by-election can guarantee the continuation of the Council Tax freeze – which is what the people of Cowdenbeath constituency and across Scotland want.”