MP urges council caution with tax increase power

A rise in the council tax increase cap from an above inflation three to 4.79 per cent has been condemned by Dumfries and Galloway MP Alister Jack.

The measure was in SNP Scottish Government's Budget which passed a vital vote at Holyrood last week with the support of Green MSPs.

As a result of the agreement, local authorities will have the option of hitting households with a larger than anticipated council tax rise in the 2019/20 financial year which begins in April.

Mr Jack, a former member of the UK Treasury Select Committee, warned that should the full rise be imposed in Dumfries and Galloway, one of Scotland's lowest wage economies, it would add to hardship facing many households.

He said: "I would urge council members to avoid the temptation of imposing the maximum increase available when they decide on the council tax level for this region later in the month.

"Scotland already has higher taxes than other parts of the UK which is damaging competitiveness and the economy."

He pointed out that the UK Government was increasing Scottish Government's block grant by £521 million in real terms in 2019/20, providing an opportunity to SNP Ministers to offer greater support to local authorities.

Mr Jack also opposed a commitment in SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay's Budget to explore introducing legislation allowing councils the power to impose a 'tourist tax.'

He said that such a levy could prove particularly damaging in Dumfries and Galloway where tourism is an increasingly important industry and employer.

Mr Jack added: "We are right next to Cumbria and the Lake District, which is currently free of such a tax, so to impose a levy on accommodation here could drive potential visitors south of the border."