05 September
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That is one of many points included as part of West Lothian Council's response to The Scottish Government and COSLA, who have launched a joint consultation on proposed changes to current council tax charges across Scotland. The proposed changes to current council tax charges aims to make the council tax system fairer.  

Views are being sought on changing council tax charges (also known as multipliers) for properties in valuation bands E to H, recognising that the current system is perceived as being unfair and regressive - as it levies a higher tax rate on lower value properties and a lower rate for higher value properties.

Council Tax contributes less than 20% of the council's total budget but it remains a key source of funding that helps provide services such as social care, local infrastructure, paths and parks and schools.

A joint motion was agreed today at the Council Executive which set out the council's submission to the consultation. 

The Council Executive noted that, if the proposed changes were implemented, 20, 634 households in West Lothian would see a rise in their council tax bills, some by as much as £766.77 every year.

Insufficient levels of grant funding from the Scottish Government (which makes up 80% of the council's budget), combined with rising costs have resulted in £150 million of budget saving measures in West Lothian over the past fifteen years. A further £43 million is required in savings over the next five years.

Leader of West Lothian Council, Lawrence Fitzpatrick said:

"The answer to how local services are rescued is not to increase Council Tax for some, but for the Scottish Government to increase their grant funding for everyone.

"We believe that an increase the multipliers for Band E to H dwellings in addition to normal council tax increase would unfairly place undue financial pressures on the families who occupy 26% of affected dwellings in West Lothian.

"It is absolutely the case that there will be a deterioration in public services without additional funding, as councils will be unable to afford existing services. However, while recognising the need for additional funding to deliver council services, the council believe that this should come from the Scottish Government rather than council tax payers.

"The huge increases in mortgage rates/energy costs and general inflation are already leaving many families struggling financially, particularly with the cost of living crisis. This is evidenced by growing use of foodbanks in West Lothian, with many of those using foodbanks being in paid employment. The change to the multipliers would mean individuals and families in higher banded properties paying more towards the cost of local service delivery.

"The Scottish Government has over the last 16 years weakened the activity of Councils to maintain high quality services for the West Lothian community. A plethora of council tax freezes, ring fencing and centralisation aggravated by a reduction in the block grant from 28% to 22% has forced councils to make cuts to cherished statutory services and in West Lothian a cumulative cut of £150 million over that period.

"The Scottish Government persistence on pursuing at huge cost a raft of policy failures from ferries to its deposit return scheme and its announcement that Councils will get a flat rate settlement over the next few years makes it extremely difficult for Councils to set a balanced budget.

"We have and will continue to call upon the Scottish Government to provide local authorities with more funding to deliver local services."