Willie, the only Rennie that gives you heartburn
Last week, on the day the Scottish Government announced:
- £500m fund to help Scottish businesses
- Child Poverty Bill introducing a baby box for every newborn
- Social Security Bill for a Scottish welfare system
- Doubling the amount of free care available to all three and four year olds and the most disadvantaged two year olds to 1,140 hours a year
- Allocating an additional £750m to help close the education attainment gap, including £100m going directly to schools
- A pledge that the health resource budget will be at least £500m more than inflation
- A Domestic Abuse Bill to prevent and eradicate violence against women and children
- Consultation on the draft referendum bill in case an independence referendum was the “best or only” way to protect Scottish interests
- Proposals to cut Air Passenger Duty
- A bill to incorporate British Transport Police in Scotland into Police Scotland
- A Gender Equality on Public Boards Bill
Nine years after they came to power there is no sign of the SNP are willing to drop independence and get on with the job of making our economy and services the best again. The first minister spent the whole summer talking up the prospect of a second independence referendum instead of getting on with the day job
If that doesn’t give you acid reflux this might. Now he is having a go at Sturgeon for her proposed council tax changes. A plan she presumably came up with in a rare break from plotting independence. A plan Willie could see no sign of last week.
The SNP is intent on strengthening its stranglehold on local government, forcing councils to collect more tax and hand it straight to ministers to spend elsewhere in the country. This analysis shows that Aberdeenshire residents are to be hit by a £41 million tax hike but just £11 million of it could come back to improve schools in the area.
Let’s ignore the fact the Willie is now having a go at the First Minster for doing a job he accused her of not doing last week.
Let’s just acknowledge the fact that he is being disingenuous here with regards to council tax reform. He makes it sound like the SNP will be taking actual Aberdeen council tax money and moving it elsewhere.
That sounds terrible but it is not very plausible given council tax makes up only a small portion of local government spending. Most of the money spent by local government comes from a block grant from central government.
What will be happening next April is, after a nine year freeze, the council tax paid by those in the highest 4 bands will rise. Areas that do well from the council tax changes will get less from the central government grant. The money saved in the block grant will go to fund schools in poorer areas.
Distribution of government funds to areas that need those funds most seems like a reasonable principle for a government to enforce.
Now, I’m not a fan of the council tax as it’s not progressive and the council tax bands were set in 1991 and are out of date. Willie Rennie can boast that the Lib Dems are in favour of a land value tax which might be a good solution to that problem.
I also think income tax is a fairer way to raise funding than council tax and, to be fair, Willie Rennie’s party did propose income tax rises in their Holyrood manifesto.
He has enough ammunition to attack the First Minster already. However, he loses any upper hand he may have had here with his complete exaggeration of what is actually happening.
There is a big difference between what Willie Rennie is spinning and the new policy. You could argue the SNP policy is an imperfect way to redistribute wealth but in no way are they stealing money from the taxpayers of Aberdeen.
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