Council tax reform plans are unveiled

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon lends a hand during a home economic class at Lasswade High School. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon lends a hand during a home economic class at Lasswade High School. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a package of reforms to council tax during a visit of Lasswade High School.

From April 2017, it is proposed that the rates paid by those in the four highest council tax bands will be adjusted to generate £100 million a year.

This additional revenue from Band E, F, G and H properties will be invested in schools through local government settlements.

The council tax freeze, which has been in place for eight years, will also come to an end.

From April next year, local authorities will have the disrection to increase council tax by a maximum of three per cent per year, generating up to £70m for council services across the country.

The First Minister said: “Over the past eight years, our council tax freeze has helped households across the country, keeping bills affordable during difficult economic times while ensuring that councils receive the funding required to provide the services people need. The council tax freeze will remain in place for 2016/17 - a ninth consecutive year.

“However, the Commission on Local Tax Reform made clear that the present system could be made fairer. We are choosing to do this in a reasonable and balanced way that will also generate £100 million of additional revenue to invest in schools.

“These reforms to council tax bands will mean no change for three out of every four Scottish households, with those in lower banded properties paying no more than they do now.”

Ms Sturgeon added there were plans to extend the council tax reduction scheme to exempt 54,000 households on low net incomes living in band E to H properties. More than one third of these are pensioner households.

The proposals will see the average band E household will pay around £2 per week more and the average household in the highest band will pay around £10 a week more.

The reforms will also provide additional support to families on low incomes across all council tax bands by extending the relief available to households with children. This will benefit 77,000 low income families by an average of £173 per year, supporting an estimated 140,000 children.

During the 40 minute tour of the Bonnyrigg secondary school last week, Ms Sturgeon met a home economics class, and joined in as the S1 pupils made some breakfast bars.

She finished off a round of media interviews on the council tax proposals by being interviewed by the school’s head boy and head girl Blair Jones and Carys Ross on the announcement she had made.