Local Government Finance Resources and Council Tax Reform: Joint Working Group minutes - March 2023

Minutes from the meeting held on the 22 March 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Tom Arthur MSP, Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth
  • Patrick Harvie MSP, Minister for Zero Carbon Buildings, Active Travel and Tenants’ Rights (chair)
  • Ben Macpherson MSP, Minister for Social Security and Local Government  
  • Councillor Katie Hagmann, COSLA Resources Spokesperson
  • Councillor Steven Heddle, COSLA Vice-President 
  • Councillor Shona Morrison, COSLA President 
  • Robert Emmott, Local Authority Director of Finance Group
  • Les Robertson, IRRV Representative
  • Scottish Government Officials
  • Sarah Watters, COSLA
  • Jonathan Sharma, COSLA

Items and actions

Terms of reference 

The Group agreed the revised terms of reference, subject to paragraph 13 being amended to confirm that the Secretariat will be provided by Scottish Government officials and paragraph 10 expanded to require an Action Log from meetings to be maintained and reviewed as a standing item for each meeting. The Group also agreed for the Terms of Reference to be published.


Tom Arthur summarised progress on the consultation seeking views on Council Tax on second homes and empty properties, noting the election of a new First Minister meant there was a small delay.

Council tax bands

Les Robertson introduced a paper showing an illustrative example of changing the proportions of the Council Tax Band D charge paid by properties in higher bands. He also confirmed that such a change was relatively easy for local authorities to implement, given their experience of a similar change in 2017. Robert Emmott noted the need for the distribution effects across all Councils to be understood.


Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) and Scottish Government to test the political appetite for such a change; Scottish Government officials to develop a draft consultation document as a contingency for the Joint Working Group (JWG) agreeing such a change should be progressed.

Council tax debt

Tom Arthur introduced a paper on Council Tax debt that cited recent work documenting the impact on affected households and also, work by Stepchange and The Improvement Service highlighting best practice in the recovery of Council Tax debt. He confirmed that the Scottish Government had no plans to mandate particular approaches to enforcement and recovery actions as this would not be consistent with the autonomy and local democratic accountability of Councils but asked the Group how the good practice identified in the Stepchange/Improvement Service report might be adopted by all Councils.


COSLA to report back to the Group on progress towards achieving consistency across all Councils in adopting the practices set out in the Stepchange/Improvement Service Report.

Poverty Commission tax working group

Jonathan Sharma described COSLA’s initial interactions with the Poverty Commission Tax Working Group and their consideration of Council Tax.


Scottish Government officials to engage with the Poverty Commission Tax Working Group.

Reforms to council tax

Members noted that the IRRV had, at the first meeting, suggested other potential reforms to Council Tax the Group may wish to consider, ranging from minor changes requiring secondary legislation to more radical reforms.


COSLA, working with Institute of RRV and Directors of Finance, to prepare a paper for the next meeting presenting a range of options from changes to the current Council Tax to more far-reaching reforms.

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