By Martin Kelly
Labour councils in Scotland are distancing themselves from Johann Lamont’s threats to hike the Council Tax, in the latest challenge to her controversial Cuts Commission.
The decision by Labour run local authorities to refuse to increase the tax follows claims by their Scottish Labour leader that the freeze disproportionally benefits the better off.
The leader of Labour-controlled West Dunbartonshire Council – the Council within Shadow Health Spokesperson Jackie Baillie’s constituency, said “we have no plans to raise council tax over the next five years. I accept the right of my leader of the Labour Party to make these comments but we’ve made plans.”
The comment follows confirmation from a spokesman from Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council last week that it was “resolutely not” going to increase council tax.
The confirmation from both Labour controlled councils mean that the Council groups in the constituencies of Scottish Labour’s Leader, Deputy Leader, and its Health Spokesperson, have rebelled against the leadership.
Commenting on the latest snub, SNP MSP for West Scotland Stuart McMillan said:
“The backlash against Johann Lamont’s Cuts Commission is growing by the day – not least from within her own party.
“The glum faces on Labour’s backbenches tell their own story, as do the panicked statements from Labour councils who have no doubt been as alarmed as everyone else by the consequences of her complete abandonment of Labour principles.
“Any party which extols the virtue of a council tax freeze during an election, and within months tries to pretend that it is hurting local services, does not deserve to be taken seriously.
“Like every single SNP Council in Scotland, Labour councillors are well aware of the huge pressure on family budgets coming from the Council Tax, especially after Labour increased it by 60% when they were last in power – which is nearly £700 in today’s prices.
“The onus is now on Jackie Baillie to explain whether she agrees with her leader Johann Lamont, or with her Labour-majority Council.
“It really is no wonder that Johann Lamont’s speech has been praised to the skies by the Tories, and it’s no wonder that Labour members have formed the ‘Labour for Independence’ group.”
A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said last week it is “resolutely not” going to end the council tax freeze. He said: “It’s definitely not up for review. There was a pledge to freeze it for five years and that’s definitely going to remain.”
The pledge to freeze council tax in Glasgow was the number one commitment given by the Labour group under Gordon Matheson during the local election campaign earlier this year.
The attack on the freeze by his leader, Johann Lamont, comes despite Ms Lamont herself openly endorsing the decision to freeze the tax for five more years. Ms Lamont appeared in photographs alongside Mr Matheson at the campaign launch.
Also endorsing the five year freeze was Deputy leader of Labour in Scotland Anas Sarwar MP and Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran MP.