Lamont “trying to have it both ways” on Council Tax

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By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP has decried Labour leader Johann Lamont for “trying to have it both ways” on council tax, after Labour joined forces with the Tories in Stirling Council this week to force through a 1 per cent council tax cut in the council’s budget.  The decision of the Labour group in Stirling is the latest move in the shifting sands of Labour’s stance on the tax.

By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP has decried Labour leader Johann Lamont for “trying to have it both ways” on council tax, after Labour joined forces with the Tories in Stirling Council this week to force through a 1 per cent council tax cut in the council’s budget.  The decision of the Labour group in Stirling is the latest move in the shifting sands of Labour’s stance on the tax.

The SNP have challenged Johann Lamont to say where she and her party now stand on the council tax.  

Labour has previously taken a wide variety of positions on council tax. The party’s 2011 manifesto included a promise to freeze council tax for two years, but a number of Labour politicians – including Ms Lamont – have also criticised the council tax freeze and called for it be scrapped.  

In the aftermath of Labour’s defeat in the May 2011 Holyrood elections, Ms Lamont called the council tax freeze “unrealistic” and claiming 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.  

In 2010 leader of the Labour group on Glasgow City Council, Cllr Gordon Matheson, said that said he needed the option of raising extra cash from council tax in order to offset spending cuts, as the city seeks savings of £180 million over the next three years.

However despite such high profile interventions from the Labour party decrying the Scottish government’s council tax freeze, and demands from Labour’s local councillors that they must be given the option to increase the tax, the Labour group in Stirling has now allied itself with the Conservatives in order to push through a tax cut.  The move leaves Labour policy on the tax even less coherent than it was.  

Ms Lamont has made no public statement on Labour’s policy on the tax since the Stirling vote.  She is now coming under severe pressure to clarify Labour’s position.

James Dornan, SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, said:

“Johann Lamont must now spell out Labour’s policy on the council tax. Does she back the council tax cut that the Labour-Tory pact in Stirling forced through this week?

“Labour’s position on the council tax has always been wildly inconsistent and confused. At various times they have opposed a freeze, backed a freeze, opposed a freeze again – and now they are actually cutting council tax.

“Does Johann Lamont back the actions of her party’s Stirling councillors? Or does she agree with those Labour politicians who want to scrap the SNP government’s council tax freeze, which is providing invaluable help for hard-pressed households across Scotland? She can’t have it both ways.

“The fact is that Labour’s credibility on the council tax has always been very shaky – but this week’s events have destroyed it completely.

“In contrast, the SNP has funded councils well in the financial circumstances we face and we have given families 5 years of a sustainable and affordable council tax freeze. The SNP has delivered responsible budgets for councils and families.”