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

Minutes from the meeting held on 15 June 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 
  • Joe FitzPatrick MSP, Minister for Local Government Empowerment and Planning 
  • Councillor Katie Hagmann, COSLA Resources Spokesperson (chair)
  • Councillor Steven Heddle, COSLA Vice-President  
  • Councillor Shona Morrison, COSLA President  
  • Robert Emmott, Local Authority Director of Finance Group
  • Les Robertson, IRRV Representative 
  • Mirren Kelly, COSLA
  • Jonathan Sharma, COSLA
  • Scottish Government Officials

Items and actions

The chair, Councillor Hagmann welcomed members to the Third Meeting of the Group. The Group agreed the minutes from the previous meeting on 22 March and discussed the actions from them.

The chair invited the group to hear updates on the list of actions from previous meetings.

Council tax debt

Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) officers reported back on discussions with local authorities, including through the Institute of Revenues Rating and Valuation (IRRV) forum, on progress towards achieving consistency across all councils in adopting the practices set out in the Stepchange/Improvement Service Report. 

Scottish Government officials reported back on the ongoing discussions with Cabinet Office to agree a data sharing agreement between local authorities and UK Government to improve collection and support the identification of vulnerable debtors who might be eligible for Council Tax Reduction.

Poverty Commission Tax Working Group

Scottish Government officials reported back on the ongoing discussions regarding the work of the Poverty Commission Tax Working Group and their considerations concerning Council Tax. An ongoing action for regular catchups with Scottish Government Council Tax Policy colleagues.

The chair invited the group to discuss the previous meeting’s paper, presented by COSLA (prepared by the IRRV), which explored Council Tax increases on higher value properties with the aim of making the fundamental structure of the tax fairer.

Council tax multipliers

The group acknowledged that such a measure was previously implemented by secondary legislation from 2017, but despite that, Council Tax remains regressive (the effective tax rate as a proportion of the property value being the highest for the lowest value properties). 

The group considered the draft Consultation paper prepared by Scottish Government officials in advance of the meeting, and concluded that in the spirit of this work, the views of the general public should be sought and reflected on. As such, the group agreed to formally endorse a joint consultation, subject to there being agreement at COSLA leaders.

The group agreed that the consultation should proceed, and that views should sought. The group endorsed the consultation paper, subject to the views of COSLA Leaders.

The chair invited the group to discuss the paper drafted by Local Government on a range of options to change the current Council Tax system. 

Further council tax reforms

The group briefly discussed the range of potential measures contained within the paper and noted that some of these required formal input from key stakeholders, such as the Scottish Assessors Association, and others could be explored further as part of our commitment to deliberative engagement.

Next meeting

The chair noted that the next meeting would take place on 24 August 2023 and concluded the meeting.

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