The following submission was made by SAACT in March 2005. At the time of this website entry the full consultation document could be accessed at http://www.localgovernmentfinancereview.org/
. Although in a sense this consultation is water under the bridge, it raised many important points which are still relevant.
LOCAL TAXATION IN SCOTLAND
A CONSULTATION BY THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT FINANCE REVIEW COMMITTEE
RESPONSE FROM SCOTTISH ACTION AGAINST COUNCIL TAX (SAACT)
Scottish Action Against Council Tax (SAACT) is the Scottish branch of the UK-wide IsItFair Campaign for the Reform of Council Tax - www.isitfair.co.uk
Our membership is drawn from supporters of all political parties and none. A look at the IsItFair members' forum will show that opposition to Council Tax comes from right across the political spectrum, including from people who on other issues may support the New Labour or Conservative Parties. What unites us is our belief that Council Tax should be replaced by a system which is more closely related to ability to pay.
We believe that only an income-based tax can fairly reflect ability to pay. Our members have different preferences on the particular form of income-based tax: some favour a nationally-set tax and others a locally-set tax. We also have different views on matters such as tax rates and tax bands, and on how progressive the tax should be. But most would agree that any income-based tax would be preferable to Council Tax.
Question 1: We would like the options set out in Sections 5 and 6 to be considered against at least the issues above. Are there any other issues that we should be considering? If so, what are they?
We try to address the issues raised in this section in commenting on the various options for local government funding. The following comments affect more than one option or are of a general nature.
Effect on the Economy / Economic Growth
The Consultation Paper asks whether there is any risk that a progressive system would create an incentive for wealthy people to migrate from high-tax areas to low-tax areas. This question would not arise if the tax were levied on a national basis (whether UK-national or Scottish national). If a local income tax system were favoured, it might be necessary to place some restrictions on local variations to guard against "economic migrants". One possibility might be to set tax BANDS nationally, but to give local Councils some discretion over tax RATES (perhaps within limits set by the Scottish Executive). This would not be very different in principle from the present system, where Councils set their own Council Tax rates, but all must work within the bands set nationally - e.g. Band H is three times Band A.
Ability to Pay / Fairness
We strongly believe that ability to pay / fairness should be the PARAMOUNT consideration. Even if it were true (which we do not believe) that a fair system would be less efficient than an unfair system, we would be prepared to sacrifice some efficiency (within reasonable limits) for the sake of fairness.
Preventing Avoidance / Collectability
We would question the Consultation Paper's statement that taxes related to property appear to be more difficult to avoid than taxes related to the individual. According to the Herald (13th January 2005), the Accounts Commission reported that in 2003-2004 only 91.7% of the Council Tax due was collected in Scotland (85.1% in Glasgow). It is true that these figures refer to the 2003-2004 year of billing only, and that some of the arrears will be collected in subsequent years. But past experience suggests that about 5% of Council Tax will never be collected. We suspect that non-payment is not always due to deliberate evasion, but to genuine difficulty in paying. The administrative costs of chasing up outstanding bills must be considerable, and these costs are not the best use of tax-payers' money. (See also under "The Cost of Collection", below.)
Part of the difficulty in collection is that Council Tax is not deducted at source from salaries, pensions and investments. In contrast, people on PAYE cannot avoid paying Income Tax (See detailed response to Question 19).
As regards local income taxes, we do not believe that insurmountable difficulties would be caused by the fact that people may work in different local authority areas from their place of residence. (See detailed response to Question 19)
Stability / Predictability
See Question 19
Relationship to the Benefits System.
A separate benefits system should not be necessary under a local income tax system. The same benefits (e.g. Working Families' Tax Credit) could be calculated, where appropriate, on the total income tax payable by taxpayers (national plus local income tax). But, in any case, a progressive income-based tax system, with a decent minimum threshold or "personal allowance", would take many people out of the benefits system completely, thus saving on administrative costs.
The present benefits system, including Council Tax Benefit, is horrendously complex, and does not function efficiently. Many deserving people do not qualify for benefit, even if they apply. Not surprisingly, it is estimated that between 28% and 34% of those who are eligible for benefit do not claim it. [Source: National Statistics Income Related Benefits: Estimate of Take-up in 2001/02.] Tinkering with Council Tax Benefit is not the solution.
An income-based system meets the criterion of buoyancy. Income tax rates can be varied every year or even more frequently if necessary.
The Cost of Collection
Pound for pound, Council Tax is 3.5 times more expensive to collect than Income Tax. We quote from the SSP's Consultation Paper on the Council Tax Abolition and Service Tax Introduction (Scotland) Bill:
"3.56 The total cost of collecting Council Tax and processing Council Benefit claims for 2002/03 is not readily available. However the total cost in 2001/02 was £68.5 million. [Source: Scottish Local Government Financial Statistics 2001/02]. This represents 5% of the £1,363.4 million collected. The Council Tax therefore has a collection cost of 5p in the £.
3.57 The Inland Revenue reports the cost of collection of Income Tax to be 1.41p in the £. [Source: Inland Revenue Annual Report 2002/03 - Appendix 2 Table1]. Thus Council Tax costs 3.5 times more to collect than Income Tax for every pound collected."
The Inland Revenue might require some additional staff if it had to collect local income taxes as well as national income tax - though, as it would be collecting more revenue, the cost of collection per pound would not necessarily increase. Indeed, in the long term it might diminish, as the initial costs would be mainly concerned with putting the requisite computer programs in place. Any increased cost to the Inland Revenue would be met many times over by the savings in staff costs in Council Finance departments. (The re-deployment of redundant Council Staff would have to be sympathetically addressed, but that is another matter.)
Who Collects the Tax?
See Question 19.
Shift to a New System: Timing and Transitional Arrangements
We do not feel competent to comment on how quickly any new system could be introduced. It should not be rushed: the Council Tax is a horrendous example of a system that was hastily cobbled together. However, we suggest that the IsItFair proposals (funding local government entirely by central government grants) could be introduced at least as an interim measure to relieve hardship, even though it may not be the preferred long-term solution. It should be no more difficult to implement than changes in income tax and VAT rates which the Chancellor can make annually, or even more frequently, if he so decides.
We do not think that any "cushioning" measures are necessary. Under all the meticulously-costed income-based proposals (Lib-Dems, SNP, SSP and IsItFair), most people would pay less tax in total. Those who would pay more are those who could better afford it.
We hope that the Committee will examine methods of funding local government in a selection of other countries.
Question 2: How well do you think that any or all of the options for local taxation set out in Sections 5 and 6 address the issue of accountability?
As the Consultation Paper notes, local accountability is limited by the fact that Councils have relatively little discretion over how they use their money, since much of what they do is prescribed by statutory requirements. Teachers' salaries, for example - a major item of expenditure - are, quite rightly, determined nationally, not locally. Indeed, it is argued that one of the reasons for the disproportionate increases in Council Tax is that central government is requiring Councils to do more and more, but without proportionately increasing the amount of central government funding. This would point to a nationally-set income-based tax, or to the funding of Councils entirely by central government grants. Under these models it could be argued that local accountability would come, not from how Councils raised their money, but from the electorate’s judgment of the efficiency with which they used their money.
However, local communities may nevertheless have legitimate different local priorities, and may be prepared to pay for them. For example, Glasgow might want to support Celtic Connections, and Argyll and Bute might want to support shinty. There is therefore a case for allowing Councils at least limited discretion in tax raising, preferably through a local income tax. As suggested in our response under "Effects on the Economy" (Question 1), this limited discretion might be achieved by setting tax BANDS nationally, but giving Councils some discretion over tax RATES (perhaps within limits set by the Scottish Executive). Local electors could then decide whether or not to support pro-shinty parties, for example.
The Consultation Paper states that only 60% of the adult population pay Income Tax. We find this figure surprising. We have no problem with people not paying income tax if they are not earning enough to do so - that is, if their income is below the "personal allowance" (currently £4,745) - and, of course, some will be full-time housewives / househusbands. But is the problem with the definition of what constitutes "income"? Our intention is that there would be a tax on ALL forms of money which goes into people's pockets for personal use - whether it is called earnings, pensions, profits, dividends, interest, bonuses, benefits in kind, capital gains, or whatever. As far as tax evasion and "tax planning" are concerned, we suggest that the effort involved in chasing up Council Tax arrears would be much better employed in closing tax loopholes.
In this context it should be mentioned that, as only householders pay Council Tax, 44% of Scottish adults do not pay this tax. (see also our response to Question 7).
BALANCE OF FUNDING
Question 3: Is the present overall balance of funding for local authorities between Scottish Executive funding and local (non-business ) funding a reasonable one? What are the reasons for your views?
Scottish Executive funding should be sufficient to pay for all functions that Councils are mandatorily required to carry out. In the current situation, Scottish Executive funding should be raised to reflect the recent increases in mandatory requirements.
Question 4: If you think the proportion of funding raised by local government should be increased, what action should be taken to achieve a different balance?
Question 5: If you think that the proportion of expenditure which is funded by the Scottish Executive should be increased, what do you think the revised balance should be?
See Question 3 above. In principle, mandatory functions (and their costs) should be kept under review, and the amount of Scottish Executive funding should be raised or lowered as appropriate ( by varying national taxation if necessary). To reduce disputes between the Scottish Executive and the Councils, as much of this as possible should be done by an agreed formulaic funding; but annual negotiation will still be necessary. Absolute fairness is impossible, even if we could all agree on what constitutes absolute fairness.
Question 6: What are the arguments, both in theory and in practice, for and against having all (i.e. 100%) local government finance determined centrally with local authorities having responsibility for expenditure?
In summary, the arguments in favour of 100% central government funding include:
(1) Central government prescribes almost all functions that local authorities are required to carry out.
(2) There would be administrative simplicity and savings in tax collection costs.
The main argument against is that local communities may still have legitimate different local priorities and may be prepared to pay for them.
We deal with these summary arguments in more detail in response to other questions.
By way of illustration, may we mention the UK-wide IsItFair Campaign's proposals. IsItFair notes that, UK-wide, an average of 75% of local government expenditure is already funded by central government grants (in Scotland it is about 80%). Accordingly, IsItFair proposes that all local government expenditure should be funded by central government grants, and that Council Tax should be replaced with appropriate increases in national taxation. IsItFair has calculated that the amount which is currently raised nationwide by Council Tax could be collected by leaving the starting rate of national income tax at 10%, increasing the standard rate from 22% to 24%, and increasing the higher rate from 40% to 44%; and by increasing VAT from 17.5% to 19%. Other variations are possible, of course.
[The IsItFair paper "Local Authority Funding: A Fairer Tax Raising System" is available on the website www.isitfair.co.uk, or can be supplied on request.]
Question 7: How well does the Council Tax address each of the core issues in the checklist outlined in paragraph 28 above? What, if anything, is wrong with Council Tax?
We think that Council Tax is fundamentally flawed. It is grossly unfair and it is grossly inefficient.
(1) It is unfair because it robs the poor to subsidize the rich. In 2003-2004, excluding water charges, a couple with a gross household income of £12,000, living in a Band D house in Glasgow, pay £1185 p.a. - 10% of income. We have heard of cases where people are paying 27% of their income on Council Tax. High earners on £100,000, living in a Band H million-pound mansion, pay £2,370 - 2.4% of income. This is grossly unfair.
(2) Partly because of the "gearing" effect, Council Tax has risen by three times the rate of (RPI) inflation over the last 11 years.
(3) Further, only householders pay Council Tax, although everyone uses Council services, and all adults can vote in elections. Because only householders pay Council Tax, about 44% of Scottish adults pay nothing. [Source: The Scottish Executive's Local Government Financial Statistics section informed the SAACT secretary in September 2003 that there were 2,179,721 chargeable dwellings for Council Tax (in July 1993) and 3,834,276 people on the Electoral Register (in June 1991).] It is true that many of this 44% will be wives, husbands or partners of householders, and some will be full time housewives, perhaps caring for school-age children or elderly relatives. But some will also be grown-up children still living in the parental home, perhaps earning good salaries. The classic example is the Broons of 10 Glebe Street. Only Paw Broon pays Council Tax. Hen, Joe, Maggie and Daphne apparently have jobs, but pay nothing. It is people, not houses, who use council services.
(4) In theory, the very poor are eligible for Council Tax Benefit. But, as noted in our response to Question 1 above, the benefits system is horrendously complex, and many deserving people do not receive benefit, even if they apply. Not surprisingly, between 28% and 34% of those eligible for benefit do not claim it. Tinkering with Council Tax Benefit is not the solution.
(5) Property taxes are not appropriate for regular payments such as Council Tax.. The value of your house does not provide you with a regular income from which you can pay your Council Tax; and the value of your house may bear no relation to your income or disposable assets (see also Question 11 on revaluation, below). The only fair way to tax property is when it does produce liquid assets - for example, a tax on rental income, or a capital gains tax on profits from house sales. Property taxes are more appropriate for national taxation.
(6) Council Tax is also grossly inefficient. It is difficult to collect, because, unlike income tax, it is not deducted at source from earnings, pensions and investments. As noted in our response to Question 1 above, the Accounts Commission reported that, in the 2003/04 year of billing, only 91.7% of the Council Tax due was collected in Scotland (85.1% in Glasgow). About 5% is never collected, despite the strenuous (and costly) efforts of Council staff and debt collectors. Pound for pound, Council Tax is about 3.5 times more costly to collect than income tax.
Question 8: Could any drawbacks be dealt with by reform of the Council Tax? Or are the drawbacks so serious that the Council Tax should be scrapped in favour of a different local taxation system? What are the reasons for your views?
Council Tax is fundamentally flawed, and tinkering with it will not remove these flaws. We are surprised that anyone regards Council Tax as a serious model for local government funding. It was not properly thought out: it was hastily cobbled together as a panic measure to replace the hated Poll Tax. It should be scrapped.
Question 9 and Question 10.
Question 11: If the Council Tax were retained - on either a reformed or unreformed basis - should there be a revaluation of domestic property? If so, when should the revaluation take place? How frequently should revaluations be held? What are the reasons for your views?
This question highlights both the unfairness and the inefficiency of the Council Tax system.
First, regular taxes such as Council Tax must be payable from income or at least disposable assets. But, as mentioned above, the value of your house may bear no relation to your income or disposable assets. This is particularly evident in areas such as Partick in Glasgow. Partick was until recently a predominantly working-class area, and still has large numbers of long-term working-class residents. But middle-class immigration has resulted in huge hikes in house prices. Small flats in Partick are now selling for £140,000 or more - possibly about 50 times the prices paid for them by long-term residents, and well beyond the means of anyone on national average earnings, not to mention the minimum wage. Under a revaluation, these houses would shoot away up the bands, especially if extra bands were added at the top; and Council Tax would become even more unaffordable. The only way that people could convert the value of their homes into liquid assets, in order to pay their Council Tax, would be by downsizing or remortgaging or (if old enough) taking out an equity release plan. Since it is difficult to "downsize" from a single-end, this presumably means moving away from family and friends. Besides, if large numbers of people tried to "downsize" nationally, there is a risk that this would result in negative equity and repossessions, as demand for cheaper houses would increase and demand for dearer houses would diminish.
Secondly, house values fluctuate: houses prices in one area increase more rapidly than in others within a short space of time. To bear any relation to the real world, there would have to be revaluations every six months or so. This is clearly impossible - and, even if possible, would be prohibitively expensive.
Questions 12 and 13: Domestic Rates
Domestic rates are open to the same objection as Council Tax - the value of your property may bear no relation to your income or disposable assets. They did, however, have the advantage that they were related to pounds and not to bands.
Questions 14 and 15: Land Value Tax
Again, the value of your land may bear no relation to your income or disposable assets. Land Value Tax might have a role in national taxation as a weapon against speculators, but it is not suitable as a regular tax on ordinary residents.
NON PROPERTY-BASED OPTIONS
Question 16: Would there be advantage in introducing a local income tax as either a complete replacement of the Council Tax or as a supplement to it? What are the reasons for your views?
First, there should be no question of any "supplement" to Council Tax. Council Tax should be scrapped entirely.
We think that the important point is that the replacement for Council Tax should be income-based (or mainly income-based), whether the tax is set nationally or locally. In summary, the advantages of an income-based tax would be that it would:
(a) reflect ability to pay
(b) be much cheaper to collect
(c) ensure that more adults would be levied to pay the tax
(d) guarantee a near-100% collection rate from those of us who are on PAYE
(e) embrace more accountability than at present
(f) dispense with the need for Council Tax Benefit, Valuations and Revaluations.
The specific arguments in favour of Local Income Tax (as opposed to a nationally-set income-based tax) would be that it would give Councils some limited discretion over the amount of tax raised, and would make local accountability more transparent.
Question 17: What would be the optimal form of any local income tax scheme? How should it operate in detail, particularly in terms of setting the tax and its essential features?
We would envisage that Councils would prepare their budgets annually and submit them to the Scottish Executive. The Scottish Executive would scrutinize these budgets and decide how much should be awarded to each Council in central government grants, taking account of mandatory requirements and such factors as the relative wealth or poverty of the Council area, the number of elderly residents, number of schoolchildren, etc. On notification of the amount of central government grants, the Councils would decide how much to raise from Local Income Tax, perhaps within limits permitted by the Scottish Executive. Councils would then notify the Scottish Executive and the Inland Revenue of their tax rates. The Inland Revenue would collect Local Income Tax from each taxpayer along with national income tax, and distribute the appropriate amounts (electronically) to the Councils concerned.
SAACT members have differing views on matters such as the appropriate amount of tax rates, the degree of progressiveness of the tax system etc, and some of us will be responding as individuals on these matters.
The point that we would like to emphasize as a group is that an income-based tax system is flexible: tax bands and tax rates can be easily varied in accordance with changes in the party in power (locally or nationally), changes in the need for revenue (more or fewer schoolchildren to educate) etc.
Question 18 Should it be separate from the national income tax system or fully integrated with it? Would a local income tax operating within the national income tax system obscure the link between council spending decisions and the levels of local tax? What are the reasons for your views?
There are various possibilities for an income-based tax, including the following:
(1) An appropriate increase in national income tax (and possibly other national taxes), to enable Councils to be funded entirely from central government grants. (The UK-wide IsItFair proposal.)
(2) A dedicated national income tax. (The Scottish Socialist Party proposal. Such a tax need not, of course, be as progressive as the SSP proposes.)
(3) Some form of local income tax. (The Liberal Democrat and Scottish National Party proposals.)
SAACT members have different preferences among these (and other models), but most would agree that any of these would be preferable to Council Tax.
The links between Council spending decisions and levels of tax would perhaps be most transparent under a Local Income Tax, but in any cases most Councils'duties and functions are mandatorily prescribed. Accountability could be seen as relating to how Councils used their money, not how it is raised.
Question 19: How well would a local income tax address each of the core issues outlined in paragraph 28 above?
We believe that an income-based tax would address these core issues very well.
Effects on the Economy / Economic Growth
We see no reason why the effects of a local income tax on the economy should be any different from the effects of national income tax.
Ability to Pay /Fairness
The most crucial argument in favour of an income-based tax is that it would indeed be fair and would reflect ability to pay. Even under a flat-rate tax, if you earned more, you would pay more. In contrast, Council Tax may bear no relation whatever to ability to pay (see Questions 7 and 11 above).
Preventing Avoidance / Collectability
In contrast to Council Tax (which is not deducted at source from salaries, pensions or investments,) people on PAYE cannot avoid paying Income Tax, except with the collusion (perhaps unlikely) of employers and pension providers. Income tax is also deducted at source from savings and investments. There may be a problem with the self-employed and the bad boys and girls who do "homers", but we strongly suspect that the real tax evaders are a relatively small minority who shelter their money in tax-havens and indulge in dubious (even if legal) "tax-planning" activities. We cannot help feeling that the efforts involved in chasing up Council Tax arrears would be more effectively employed in closing more serious tax loopholes.
As regards local income taxes, we do not believe that insurmountable difficulties would be caused by the fact that people may work in different local authority areas from their place of residence. Everyone worth taxing has a National Insurance number and a fixed abode with a postcode; and places of employment also have postcodes. (Travelling people are a small minority, and presumably pay neither Income Tax nor Council Tax at present.) Income-based taxes, even if set locally, would be collected by the Inland Revenue, which knows (or should know) where we live and where we work. In these days of computers, it should not be too difficult, once the requisite programs were written, for the Inland Revenue to use NI numbers and postcodes to match employees with their place of residence, and to distribute the appropriate amounts of tax (electronically) to the Councils concerned. It appears to us that computers already perform far more complex matching exercises. (This question would, of course, not arise if the tax were levied nationally.)
Stability / Predictability
We believe that income-based taxes would meet the criteria of stability and predictability. The incomes of most of us do not normally vary significantly from one year to another, and, even if they do, these variations can usually be predicted (e.g. when we retire)
Relationship to the Benefits System
An income-based system would, of course, dispense with the need for Council Tax Benefit, and COULD take many people out of other forms of benefit, thus saving on administrative costs (see also our response to Question 1)
An income-based system meets the criterion of buoyancy. Income tax rates can be varied every year or even more frequently if necessary
The Cost of Collection
An income based tax would be very much cheaper to collect than Council Tax (see Question 1 for details and evidence).
Who Collects the Tax?
Any income-based tax, whether set locally or nationally, should be collected by the Inland Revenue. (See also our responses under "Preventing Avoidance / Collectability" and "The Cost of Collection", above). No-one, as far as we are aware, is suggesting that local income taxes should be physically collected by local Councils: the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, the SSP and IsItFair all agree that the Inland Revenue should be the collecting agent. If a local income tax is favoured, the Councils' role would be in setting the tax, not physically collecting it.
We do not believe that employers should be involved in calculating the amount of tax payable by each employee. The employer's responsibility should be limited to reporting the amount of each employee's earnings, and sending the Inland Revenue the amount that the IR demands. It should be the Inland Revenue's responsibility to calculate the amount of local tax, national tax, National Insurance contributions, etc., payable by each employee, ask the employer to send it the total amount due, and distribute the appropriate amounts (electronically) to the Treasury, the Councils and other bodies entitled to their cut. Transferring responsibility for assessment to employers and individuals is inefficient, and does not result in any real savings.
See Question 2.
Question 20: Would any form of Poll Tax be worth considering as part of the future local taxation system - either on its own or in combination with some other tax? What are the reasons for your views?
Even if there were anything to be said in favour of the Poll Tax, it would be politically impossible to re-introduce it.
The one thing in favour of the Poll Tax was that it was based on people, not property. But it was grossly unfair: except for the very poor who qualified for Poll Tax Benefit, low-paid workers and pensioners paid the same as millionaires. A viable "progressive Poll Tax" would, however, be indistinguishable from an income-based tax.
Question 21: How well would a Poll Tax address each of the core issues in the checklist outlined in paragraph 28 above?
It would not address them at all well. In particular it would be grossly unfair, lacking in buoyancy, and difficult and costly to collect The only predictable thing about it would be its lack of collectability.
Question 22: Would a local sales tax be worth considering as either a full or partial replacement for the Council Tax? How well would a local sales tax address each of the core issues in the checklist outlined in paragraph 28 above?
Question 23: Is a tax on motor vehicle fuel appropriate and worth considering as a local tax? How well would such a tax address each of the core issues in the checklist outlined in paragraph 28 above?
Sales taxes and motor vehicle fuel taxes are not appropriate as local taxes. Goods and fuel are not necessarily used in the place where they are bought, and the tax would not therefore always fall on the users of local services (i.e. local residents). If fuel were significantly cheaper in East Dunbartonshire than in Glasgow, for example, many Glasgow residents would cross the border to fill up their tanks, thus swelling the coffers of an affluent area at the expense of a relatively poor area.
Tax on goods and fuel should remain national taxes. An appropriate share of these taxes does, of course, form part of central government grants to Councils.
Question 24: Would a tourist tax be worth considering as a supplement to the Council Tax or any alternative form of taxation?
If we want to encourage tourists, a tourist tax is the last thing we want. Tourists contribute to national taxation through VAT, fuel tax, duty on alcohol etc. Again, an appropriate share of these taxes does, of course, form part of central government grants to Councils.
Question 25: Are there any other models of local taxation that the Committee could consider? If so, what?
We have no suggestions for other models of local taxation.
OPTIONS FOR BUSINESS TAXATION
SAACT is primarily concerned with the impact of Council Tax on individuals, and we cannot therefore comment as a group on options for business taxation, except to say that we believe in principle that businesses should contribute their fair share to local authority funding, whether through non-domestic rates or via contributions through national taxation to central government grants to Councils.
Questions 32- 33 (Fees and Charges)
We recognize fees and charges as existing and potential sources of income, but we cannot as a group comment on these matters.
Questions 34-36: (Water and Sewerage Charges).
We believe that water and sewerage charges should be related to ability to pay, and should be collected through a (Scottish) national income-based tax. Scottish Water should set these charges in consultation with the Scottish Executive, and they should be collected by the Inland Revenue along with local and national tax. The Councils should not be involved in the setting or collection of water and sewerage charges.
Questions 37-39 (Distribution Mechanisms)
We do not feel qualified to comment on distribution mechanisms.
Question 40 (Equalization)
Equalization is fundamentally related to ability to pay. It should be implemented by adjustment of the amount of central government grant to each Council, taking account of factors such as the relative wealth and poverty of each Council area (as measured, for example, by average incomes), number of elderly residents, number of schoolchildren etc.
Question 41 (Other Issues)
Consideration should be given to what Council funding (whether raised through a local income tax or a dedicated income-based national tax) is expected to cover.
For example, Education is a major item of Council expenditure, and yet local Councils have relatively little room for manoeuvre in this area - teachers' salaries are determined nationally, there are national limits on class sizes, etc. It could be argued that all (or a greater proportion) of Education expenditure should be funded by central government grants. This would not preclude input from Councils on local educational policy where appropriate.
For and on behalf of members of 'Scottish Action Against Council Tax'
4 March 2005