Only 4% take up on council tax exemption
Scottish Labour has urged action from the Scottish Government, as figures revealed that less than 4% of eligible households have requested council tax exemption.
The scheme, introduced in April 2017, exempts households in Bands E-H with a net income of under £25,000 and savings of less than £16,000, from the payment of council tax. When the scheme was announced in March 2016, the Scottish Government claimed that 54,000 households would be eligible for the exemption - but freedom of information requests by Scottish Labour’s social security spokesperson, Mark Griffin show that less than 2000 have opted in. He stated: ‘Struggling families and pensioners are missing out of key support and facing massive Council Tax bills as a result. We need to see more action from the SNP to boost take-up, and getting people the support they deserve.’
The regressive nature of council tax has been widely reported. The SNP made an election pledge to abolish ‘Labour’s hated Council Tax’ in 2007, and local taxation reform is supported by Scottish Labour, the Scottish Greens, and the Scottish Liberal Democrats, though alternative proposals vary.
Research at the University of Stirling in 2014 by economists Comerford and Eiser showed that uniform council tax rises increase inequality, partly because the property valuations are outdated, and partly because it hits low and middle income families far harder.
However, coming off the back of a nine-year council tax freeze, and with repeated cuts to local government funding, many Scottish councils will still be forced to opt for the measure to top up their desperately empty coffers. Greater take up of the low income exemption would go some way to alleviating this.