Labour’s Matheson ridiculed over party’s latest council tax U-turn

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By G.A.Ponsonby 

The Labour leader of Glasgow City Council Gordon Matheson has been ridiculed after performing a massive U-turn over the council tax freeze.

The criticism follows publication of his party’s manifesto for Glasgow in which the number one pledge states that “Labour was the first council in Scotland to introduce a council tax freeze, and will continue to freeze council tax for the next 5 years.”

By G.A.Ponsonby 

The Labour leader of Glasgow City Council Gordon Matheson has been ridiculed after performing a massive U-turn over the council tax freeze.

The criticism follows publication of his party’s manifesto for Glasgow in which the number one pledge states that “Labour was the first council in Scotland to introduce a council tax freeze, and will continue to freeze council tax for the next 5 years.”

However the SNP has claimed that the leader of the Glasgow Labour group at City Chambers has now lost all credibility and have pointed out that Mr Matheson has been an outspoken critic of the SNP’s own council tax freeze.

In a letter to Finance Secretary John Swinney in December 2010, Mr Matheson attacked the SNP plans for a further freeze saying “It is with a gun to my head that I agree to your short-term targets”.

The letter followed earlier demands from the Labour council chief that the council tax freeze be scrapped.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland in August that same year Mr Matheson claimed that the SNP move threatened teacher jobs and services for the vulnerable and added:

“I’m calling for the option of being able to raise council tax in order to offset some of the more brutal cuts that we will have to make.

“We need to be able to have the option of comparing the impact of increasing the council tax with some of the more brutal options we face”

Hear Mr Matheson attacking the SNP freeze on BBC Radio Scotland

The decision by Glasgow Labour is at odds with comments from Anas Sarwar MP – Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader, who when asked about the five-year council tax freeze on Newsnight Scotland on 30th January 2012, said “I don’t think that’s credible. I don’t think that’s progressive.”

Commenting on Mr Matheson’s U-turn, SNP Group Leader Cllr Allison Hunter said:

“I’ve lost count of the amount of positions Labour have had on the council tax freeze.

“Gordon Matheson says today he wants to freeze the council tax for the next five years, but Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader – Glasgow MP Anas Sarwar – has already said he doesn’t think that is credible or progressive.

“And Gordon Matheson himself has been itching to put council tax up – saying being forced to freeze it is like having a gun to his head. So is he now holding a gun to his own head?

“Labour are just trying the same trick that backfired on them so spectacularly last year – people weren’t fooled then, and they won’t be fooled now.”

Under Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour party initially opposed the freeze on council tax, but switched shortly before the Scottish election and pledged a two year freeze.

However in the aftermath of Labour’s defeat in the May 2011 Holyrood elections, Gray’s replacement Johann Lamont called the council tax freeze “unrealistic” and claimed it would “hammer public services”.

Speaking during the Labour leadership campaign last year, Ms Lamont called the Scottish Government’s council tax freeze “reckless” and said it should be scrapped.

Ms Hunter added:

“The fact is average council tax across Scotland went up by 60% under Labour – they just cannot be trusted on council tax, and voters know it.

“Gordon Matheson’s arrogant threat that ‘no-one steps on Glasgow’ completely sums up Labour’s belief that they have a divine right to rule this city in perpetuity.

“On May 3rd voters in Glasgow will have a chance to elect an SNP Council which will bring in a whole new era of openness and transparency to their city.  We’ve spoken to over 20,000 people in Glasgow in the last 18 months – we will give them the council that they deserve.”

The decision by Glasgow Labour to change their stance on the council tax freeze comes two months after the Labour group at Stirling Council voted for a cut in the council tax.

Labour joined forces with the Tories in order to block the budget of the minority SNP group and force through a 1 per cent cut.

Here is how BBC Scotland reported Gordon Matheson’s attack on the Scottish Government’s proposal to freeze the council tax.