The game of brinksmanship over whether Council tax should be increased has escalated today with the news that Iain Gray has taken over the reins from Glasgow Council leader Gordon Matheson in calling for more money to be charged to residents to safeguard local services.
Joe Fitzpatrick defended a continued freeze on Newsnight Scotland last night and the SNP have bolstered their defence by attacking Iain Gray’s calls as a “smash and grab raid on the public’s pockets”. That exaggerated rhetoric betrays the desperation of the SNP’s stance and lack of options that the party has left itself with. The blame game is riddled all over the latest press release, brandishing council cuts as Labour’s, yet they are SNP cuts at a national level and Tory/Lib Dem cuts at a UK level. This merry-go-round of mud slinging and ‘which cuts are whose’ cannot be political debate at its best, surely.
We only have to look at the recent BAA resolution for evidence that a compromise is required and the SNP will have to back down in some way. BAA workers, much like local councils, are receiving less in real terms. It is an unsustainable direction of travel. You can’t perennially freeze income and allow costs to increase through VAT rises and inflation, inflation which is already higher than expected. Middle ground (necessary before a vote on next year’s budget) will either involve allowing Council Tax to increase or providing more money to councils to plug the gaps.
As the Government is steadfastly against the former, the SNP can only get out of this hole with the latter. It’s going to cost them and it may well be money that John Swinney shouldn’t, but politically can’t-not, spend.
Iain Gray is correct though, local councils should be making local decisions surrounding what Council Tax should be now that the three-year concordat is over. It’s time to share the pain. Buying your way into a more palatable election campaigning position is not what good Government should be about.