By Martin Kelly
 
The Scottish Labour party has been called on to clarify its stance on the council tax freeze after its candidate in a forthcoming by-election was filmed criticising the flagship SNP policy.
 
Alex Rowley, who is the Scottish Labour candidate in the forthcoming Cowdenbeath by-election suggested councils should be allowed to increase the council tax and that the freeze was undermining local democracy.

In an interview given before the last Scottish elections, Mr Rowley, who is the leader of the Labour group on Fife council, attacked the freeze and said the council tax should be increased in order to invest in capital infrastructure.

“One option is that you put something on the council tax to try to help you do that,” he said.

The Labour councillor also claimed that the freeze was preventing the council from raising more money and was undermining local democracy, adding: “Right across Europe, local government is able to use local taxation and through that local taxation local government are held to account.

“There is a fundamental question of local democracy here as well as starving councils from being able to raise any money themselves.”

The comments from her main rival for the Cowdenbeath constituency were seized on by SNP candidate Natalie McGarry who called on the Scottish Labour party to clarify its stance on the council tax freeze.

Commenting, Ms McGarry said:

“Alex Rowley has nailed his colours firmly to the mast as an opponent of the Council Tax freeze, which is saving Fife households an average of £1,600.

“That is a significant sum of money in these difficult times, and one that is overwhelmingly backed by people in Scotland.  Council Tax bills rose by 50% in Fife when Labour was in office nationally – and what this video makes clear is that if Alex Rowley had his way, that is what would happen again.”

Mr Rowley’s comments appear at odds with his own party’s stance on the council tax freeze.  In a recent by-election in Dunfermline the Scottish Labour party issued a leaflet in which it confirmed its support for the flagship SNP policy.

Natalie McGarry added: “Labour are all over the place on the Council Tax freeze – they just won a by-election in Dunfermline on a pledge to support it, yet the leader of the Council in Fife is clearly against it.  Perhaps Johann Lamont can at last say what Labour’s position is.

“One of the first jobs the winner of this by-election will have will be to vote on Scotland’s budget.  While Alex Rowley may want to see Fife’s Council Tax bills rise, my pledge to people in this constituency is that if elected I will use my vote to ensure that the Council Tax freeze continues.”

The issue looks set to become one of the main points of contention in the by-election set to take place on January 23rd.

This week saw the council tax freeze take centre stage after a survey commissioned by a new group suggested people would be keen to pay more if the extra cash could be guaranteed to be spent on local services.

According to the poll, carried out by Mori on behalf of the so-called ‘Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy’, two thirds of Scots were in favour of ending the council tax freeze.

However the survey was at odds with results from a similar poll conducted in October last year for online site Wings over Scotland, which showed 82% of people supported a continuation of the council tax freeze.

Comments  

 
#
oldnat
2014-01-04 02:14

The poll by the Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy doesn’t actually contradict the council tax freeze.

That one question (among many that were asked in the poll) supports a different vision of local democracy that all parties need to take on board.

While Westminster insists on the council tax remaining in place, no change is realistically possible in the short term, but in an independent Scotland, few would support the current enforced centralisation.
 
 
#
BRL
2014-01-04 11:04

Oldnat – writes that …’While Westminster insists on the council tax remaining in place, no change is realistically possible in the short term, but in an independent Scotland, few would support the current enforced centralisation.’

Is this showing a rare realism with Scottish Labour kicking against Westminster dictum? If so a Labour party in Scotland could have some future potential after all, not that there could be a vacuum, just that UK Labour ain’t left wing anymore.

Expect a lot more of this as the manifesto net tightens, but can you believe a word of it after Dunfermline’s farrago of cynicism and downright lies. The watchword is surely get honest or perish.
 
 
#
Barbazenzero
2014-01-04 14:46

Spot on.

The MORI poll details are now at ipsos-mori.com/…/…
 

 
#
Leswil
2014-01-04 07:16

While the SNP would like to alter how Councils are funded, this has not been endorsed by other parties.

However,it highly likely that until something better is available, people would much prefer the freeze to the kind of increases that were applied during labour control.
 
 
#
WRH2
2014-01-04 10:16

Maybe a bit of a slip up by BBC in making such a big story of this with this by election coming up. It’s not going to be so easy for Labour to deny this and given the previous 50% Council Tax rise in Fife it will be interesting to see what effect this has. The BBC know they can get away with such bias, and here they have perhaps overreached themselves.
 
 
#
creigs1707repeal
2014-01-04 10:31

As Alex Salmond pointed out, Labour say one thing in public and another thing in public.

If Alex Rowley had his way, people in Cowdenbeath will be shelling out an extra £1600 per year. But it is all part of Labour Party strategy to hold onto their core support–keep the working class from becoming better off for, so the reasoning goes, if they become better off then they are unlikely to continue to vote Labour. Labour will do everything it can to prevent the working class aspiring to a better standard of living. Part of that strategy is fleecing them with massive Council Tax hikes.
 
 
#
Lucas
2014-01-04 10:32

Post independence, I’d hope to see the current megalithic Scottish Local Authorities abolished, and have a return to something akin to the old Burgh system as advocated by Lesley Riddoch in her book.
 
 
#
Langspoon
2014-01-05 20:49

Yes!
 

 
#
hektorsmum
2014-01-04 13:39

We all know that the Council Tax freeze cannot continue for ever but just as we know this we also know that given the chance Labour, will increase them out of all proportion and those of us who have to pay will see very little spent. Since Labour got control of Fife Council I have seen an increase in spending on Tar, loads of it. No it is not filling in the potholes, it is building huge lumps in the roads.
I could feel sorry for the people in Dunfermline, but as I live there I am having difficulty. They voted in one of the people who voted the closure of a much needed Primary School, who actually said she had no idea she had voted to close it, then they send out people to get signatures to keep it open. Surely a sign of madness.
 
 
#
Langspoon
2014-01-05 21:04

Agreed (and I live here too). But the worrying thing about Dunfermline was that the electorate still voted labour despite their contrasting messages, suspect campaigning and other more articulate candidates.

If people are this stupid I’m really worried they will believe the propaganda machine on Sept 18th.
 

 
#
Massan_Gow
2014-01-04 20:55

I don’t believe there is confusion within Labour – I believe they say one thing then once the votes come in go off and do another. Then the media continue the lies and confusion. Ask any Labour voter who it was that originally introduced a bedroom tax (for private landlords/tenants) and very few will know it was Gordon Brown.

This type of confusion allows Labour to keep many die-hard Labour voters whilst also (down South) claiming some of the soft Tory vote.

Why else would people (esp in Glasgow) continue to vote in a Party that has done nothing to erase poverty after continued rule?
 
 
#
indy2014
2014-01-04 22:04

David Cameron’s New Year Message: What He Was Really Saying (with subtitles).

huffingtonpost.co.uk/…/…
 

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