LOCAL government leaders have been campaigning for council tax changes for years. The SNP said it would scrap the system as far back as 2007.

But it's still in place and still the subject of debate.

So as the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) calls on the Scottish Government to lift the cap that limits how high councils can raise the charges, how do things stand? How does the situation vary between regions, and how does Scotland compare to other parts of the UK?

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BELIEVE it or not, council tax is less than 30 years old. The domestic property-based system was introduced by the Local Government Finance Act 1992, coming into force a year later. There's an A-to-H banding system covering properties from the lowest to highest ends of the spectrum, based on values from 1991.

Band D is at the centre – councils set the rate for this and the charges for all other groups are calculated as a fixed proportion, as set out in law.

There are exemptions and reductions in place to reduce the charge to some households. All the cash raised is funnelled into local services and Cosla argues that local authorities need to have maximum control over how much they can bring in to cover their costs and avoid cuts.

The receipts are funnelled into essential local services like roads and refuse collection.


BETWEEN 2007 and 2017 a country-wide council tax freeze meant rates stayed still everywhere in Scotland.

When that ended, limits were imposed on how high councils could increase rates. In 2020-21, that limit was 4.84%, which the Scottish Government said allowed for a total take of £135 million, subject to what individual authorities decided to do.

The freeze came back into play in the 2021-22 budget, when every authority agreed not to impose a rise. That was welcomed by Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, who distributed the equivalent of a 3% council tax increase to each local authority.

That left Band D costs at £1409 in Midlothian, which had the highest charge, and £1193.50 in the Western Isles, where the level was the lowest. In Glasgow, the charge was set at £1386, versus £1379 in Dundee, £1332.33 in Highland and £1206.54 in Angus.

At the time, Forbes said the news would "make a real difference to people across Scotland" due to the "unprecedented challenges and extra pressures" of the pandemic.

Cosla argues that it's those pressures that now mean councils should have full powers over how high to raise charges, if indeed at they want to raise them at all.

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NORTHERN Ireland uses domestic rates, not council tax. England sets its bands using the same 1991 valuations as Scotland but in Wales figures from 2003 are used.

According to recent research one housing company, Rentround.com, Blaenau Gwent in south Wales has the most expensive council tax bills in the UK at an average of £2078 per year.

This year, bills in Wales went up by at least twice the rate of inflation (0.9%). This ranged from 2.85% in Rhondda Cynon Taf to 6.95% in Newport and Wrexham. Welsh Government funding takes care of somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of spending for each authority, with the rest taken in from the tax and income generation from fees and services.

In England, councils had the ability to raise rates by 5% last year. The average increase was 4.4%, with the Band D billpayers facing an average cost of £1898.

This year the Treasury's allowed them to impose rise of up to 3% without having to hold a local referendum on the matter.

In October, the Office for Budget Responsibility said it anticipates council tax receipts to be £12.1 billion higher in 2026/27 than seven years prior.


THE plan set to be laid-out by Forbes is vital for service planning at a local level. The short period between now and December 9 is Cosla's best bet at influencing that budget and achieving the outcomes it wants for its members.

Cosla claims that the council tax base is "significantly smaller" than it could have been without the lengthy freeze in Scotland, taking £600m out of the picture for council services.

In its capital spending review, the Scottish Government indicated that authorities should receive £628m in 2022-23, but Cosla says this would represent a 6% real terms reduction compared with 2013-14.

It argues that while there have been increases in capital spending over the years, these have been largely used to pay for increased nursery provision – allowing the Scottish Government to meet its pledge of expanding free nursery hours to 1140 per child.

And it says it would need an additional £500m if councils are to provide "real-terms investment that enables work towards net zero" and other key areas of work.