SNP criticise Labour for ‘Thatcher Tax’ support

Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 19:07 on 19 December 2014.
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14-09-2013 - By Scott Campbell (+44) 0774 296 870 - Save Abronhill High School public meeting, at Abronhill Parish Church; Councillor Tom Johnston (SNP - Abronhill, Kildrum & The Village) speaks to the crowd.
SNP Group Depute Leader, Councillor Tom Johnston. Picture: Scott Campbell for Cumbernauld Media.
CUMBERNAULD councillor, Tom Johnston has hit out at the North Lanarkshire Council Labour Group, after members didn’t back an SNP group motion to end pursuance of the Community Charge.

Introduced in Scotland in 1989, the Community Charge – known as the poll tax – was superseded by the introduction of the current Council Tax system in 1993.

On October 2nd, former First Minister Alex Salmond announced the Scottish Government’s intention to bring forward legislation to ensure that councils could take no further action to recover ancient Community Charge or ‘Poll Tax’ debts. Earlier this month, in the Programme for Government announcement, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed the Bill will finally end collection of debts from non-payment of the Poll Tax.

The First Minister announced that the Community Charge Debt (Scotland) Bill would be brought before the Scottish Parliament. The Bill was then introduced on December 4th. 

The amount of Poll Tax arrears collected by local authorities across Scotland has fallen in recent years to less than £350,000 in 2013-14, and some local authorities have ceased recovery of debts altogether. Nonetheless, the Scottish Government will cover the cost to local authorities of the Poll Tax debt that they would have expected to recover under existing arrangements.

An SNP motion to yesterday’s council meeting aimed to end pursuance of what Councillor Johnston has labelled the ‘Thatcher Tax’, within North Lanarkshire.

The motion – which called for “North Lanarkshire Council… to follow the example of West Dunbartonshire Council and instruct Council officials to stop collection of the Community Charge ("poll tax") with immediate effect." was defeated 37-21.

According to the motion, outstanding debt in North Lanarkshire, as of 31 March 2014 “amounted to £29,313,000, which is approximately 10% of the total charges raised during the four years that Community Charge operated”, adding that, “In financial year 2013−14, just £32,192 was collected in Community Charge”.

Commenting, Councillor David Stockers, SNP Group Leader at North Lanarkshire Council said: “I am frankly staggered by Labour’s determination to pursue this hated Thatcherite tax in high-deprivation North Lanarkshire. The SNP motion asked them simply to follow the lead of West Dunbartonshire Council, where Labour joined with an SNP motion to end poll tax collection forthwith. Thatcher’s tax is dead in West Dunbartonshire but well-supported by Labour in North Lanarkshire.”

SNP Group Depute Leader Councillor Tom Johnston added: “Poll Tax arrears in North Lanarkshire remains at £29 million, but that is from over twenty years ago. Last year, just £32,000 was collected from this £29 million. Virtually all of the outstanding money is uncollectable as there is a 20-year limit on local authorities pursuing debts.”

The Abronhill, Kildrum and Village SNP Councillor added: “Thankfully, the Scottish Government will end the poll tax after next February and councils will be compensated for the miniscule amounts they are still able to collect.”
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