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Date 11 April 2007

Edinburgh's local government union warns council income tax could hit services and democracy

UNISON, the union that represents Edinburgh's local government workers, today attacked plans from some political parties for a centralised income tax to replace the council tax.

The union said the proposals would remove decisions and fund-raising powers further away from local people. The union also said that the proposed level of the nation-wide tax could leave a £450m hole in local government services. Many people would end up paying more for fewer public services.

John Mulgrew, UNISON Edinburgh Branch's lead negotiator, said , "The independent review of local government finance estimated that in order to meet current spending local income tax would need to be set at a rate of 6.5%, but this rate will hit working families.

"The lower rates proposed by some parties may look attractive but would mean huge cuts in public services. In Edinburgh we fear this would mean turning back the clock from the investment we have seen in things like childrens services, child protection and education. "

"Even at a rate of 3.75% - which would still mean service cuts - a couple (for example a newly qualified social worker and home care co-ordinator) would pay £193 a year more than the average just now", he added.

Branch Secretary George Lee said, "UNISON wants a fairer Council Tax with more benefits at the bottom and higher bands at the top. Income tax would penalise many households and the rich would just avoid it anyway in tax havens. At least you can't hide your house".

"UNISON believes local government should have more, not less control over its finances. Currently local government only controls 20% of the money it needs to provide services, and 80% is provided centrally. Financial experts and those who stand up for local democracy are unanimous that the link between raising their own funds and deciding their own services is key to having local councils accountable to their voters.

"It is a nonsense for parties which advocate more local control to want to want to concentrate decisions centrally."

Funding local government via a centralised tax means local councils will have virtually no power to set their own budgets. They would become simply administrators of Executive decisions. It will also break the direct link between those who pay for services and their councillor.


For Further Information Please Contact: George Lee - 07817315312, John Mulgrew, 0131 220 5655, John Stevenson (Communications Officer) 07876 795 018.




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