Labour’s confusion on the Scottish Government’s Council Tax freeze has been thrust into the spotlight again after Johann Lamont hinted that she believed people would have to pay more for local services.
In an interview with ITV Borders, Ms Lamont refused to confirm that council tax needed to go up but eventually conceded that people “might” have to pay more for their services and that they needed to “buy in” to the council tax.
Her comments come as the former Labour Leader of Falkirk Council, Linda Gow, criticised the council tax freeze. Her criticisms were made despite the Council projecting an underspend of £2.2m this year, in addition to a £4.4m underspend last year.
Ms Gow’s remarks follows a similar attack on the freeze from Labour’s leader on Inverclyde Council, Stephen McCabe, who said he did not support the policy. 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…”
The issue of the council tax freeze has dogged Labour since being introduced by the SNP after their 2007 election victory.
However, despite leading figures attacking the freeze, with one front senior bencher Jackie Baillie admitting she has never supported the policy, the party is telling voters in Fife it has always backed the SNP flagship policy.
In the Cowdenbeath by-election, Labour is distributing a leaflet claiming that the Council Tax freeze is their policy. It’s candidate Alex Rowley has also been filmed suggesting the council tax should rise, despite denying ever having said so.
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.
SNP MSP for Falkirk East, Angus MacDonald, said:
“The evidence is telling us that Johann Lamont and her party believe the council tax freeze should be ended and people’s bills increased.
“Ms Lamont has contradicted her own party’s leaflet by telling people they could face increases in their household bills because she wants them to “buy in” to council tax.
“The SNP has committed to the council tax freeze for a reason – it makes a real difference to people’s lives by putting money in their pockets during this tough economic climate.
“Labour’s hypocrisy on the issue of the freeze has always been breath-taking but today it has sunk to new lows.
“Not content with just misleading voters with dubious leaflets, senior Labour figures are now seeking to impose higher Council Tax bills on families, despite many councils not even spending the money allocated under current budgets.
“People across Scotland remember the year-on-year hikes on the Council Tax when Labour was in power, and families across the country will be fearful of a return to those days, as Lamont has hinted at, if Labour gets its way.
“Lamont’s duplicitous attitude on the issue only confirms what we already knew, that the council tax freeze is only safe with the SNP.”