The Scottish Labour party has launched another attack on the council tax freeze, despite pledging their support for the policy less than two months ago.
Responding to the news that councils have agreed a continuation of the freeze with the Scottish Government, ensuring no council tax rises for the seventh consecutive year, Labour attacked what they described as a “prolonged” policy that helps “the rich prosper”.
Labour’s attack followed a new local government finance settlement announced by Finance Secretary John Swinney which includes plans to increase childcare to 600 hours a year as well as a continuation of the freeze.
The Finance Secretary also said that the Scottish Government would act to ensure Scotland continues to provide the most comprehensive package of support for small businesses anywhere in the UK, by capping the annual increase in business rates poundage at 2%.
The funding settlement includes £190 million for Local Government over financial years 2014-15 and 2015-16 to fund an increase in nursery care from 475 hours a year to 600 hours a year for 3 and 4 year olds and looked-after 2 year olds from 2014.
Commenting, SNP MSP Mark McDonald who sits on the Local Government and Regeneration Committee said:
“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy and today’s announcement ensures that Scotland will continue to have the most comprehensive package of small business support anywhere in the UK.
“The SNP’s Small Business Bonus Scheme has seen more than 92,000 businesses in Scotland have their rates bills abolished or substantially reduced, making a huge difference to businesses during difficult years.
“Meanwhile the funding to provide a substantial increase in childcare provision is one that will be of real benefit to thousands of families across Scotland.
“It provides us with a platform upon which to build the childcare revolution we have proposed for an independent Scotland – using the powers of a Yes vote to ensure the increased revenues more childcare unlocks are put to work to fund and maintain further improvements instead of disappearing into Westminster’s Treasury.
“The local government funding settlement announced today will fund key priorities for Scotland, but what is particularly welcome as an Aberdeen MSP is that it continues the 85% funding floor that the SNP Government delivered, providing an additional £7 million to Aberdeen over the three year period.”
The continuation of the Council Tax Freeze means bills have not risen since the SNP took office in 2007. By the end of the current Parliament, this will have saved the average household around £1,200.
However Scottish Labour, despite recently claiming it supported the council tax freeze, criticised the move.
The party’s local government spokeswoman Sarah Boyack said: “The SNP have broken local authority finance through their sustained and underfunded council tax freeze that actually costs people more money as charges to deliver services are increased to provide vital funds.
“Since 2008 almost 35,000 jobs have been lost within councils as the SNP continue to grasp power back from local authorities.
“Under the SNP’s prolonged, underfunded council tax freeze the rich prosper and those who most need the support of councils lose out.”
In October Scottish Labour expressed support for the council tax freeze, highlighting the pledge in a recent by-election campaign leaflet.