By Bill Heaney
A quarter of households across West Dunbartonshire and Argyll face a massive hike in their council tax bills in a bid to support struggling local councils.
The Scottish Government has launched a public consultation on its plans to hike rates for homes ranked under the highest bands of E, F, G and H.
SNP ministers insisted it would make the controversial council tax system fairer by asking the wealthiest Scots to pay more.
It was revealed here just last month how the government was working with COSLA, which represents councils, on proposals to raise more cash from local taxes.
Councils from Dunbartonshire to Dumfries are facing huge real-terms cuts to their budgets amid a spending squeeze and rising inflation.
The tax increases, if approved by MSPs, would implemented over a period of three years.
People living in a band H property face paying 22.5 per cent more per year on average, while those living in a band G home would pay 17.5 per cent more.
There have been repeated calls over the years for the system to be scrapped entirely – a position the SNP previously backed.
Tom Arthur, the public finance minister, said the proposed changes would only affect around 25 per cent of Scots households.
He said: “We have listened to calls for the council tax system to be made fairer, as presently more of the burden falls on those in the lower bands when considered as a proportion of the value of their property.
“The changes would only affect around a quarter of properties and even after they are taken into account, average council tax in Scotland would still be less than anywhere else in the UK.
“We know that many people are struggling with their finances and our Council Tax Reduction scheme is there to ensure nobody has to pay a Council Tax bill they cannot be expected to afford, regardless of what band they are in.
“I would encourage anyone who has views on these proposals to complete our consultation before it closes on 20 September 2023, to help us determine if they should be taken forward.”
Councillor Katie Hagmann, resources spokeswoman for COSLA, said: “For many years there have been calls to make the council tax system fairer.
“This is a consultation about ways to make council tax more proportionate for everyone, so that householders pay their fair share towards the delivery of essential local services, including looking at those higher value properties.”
Roz Foyer, left, the STUC general secretary, described council tax rises as a “short-term solution” to the funding crisis faced by local authorities.
“It’s the correct call to find ways to increase local government resources but tinkering around the edges won’t cut it,” she said.
“The Scottish Government are dressing up an inherently regressive council tax and selling it to the public as a progressive move.
“This is only a short-term solution. We must see bolder moves to complete a wholesale rates review of properties throughout Scotland, replacing the council tax in addition to introducing wealth and property taxes. “