Does Labour leader now back council tax cuts?
The SNP has challenged Johann Lamont to say where she and her party now stand on the council tax, after Labour joined forces with the Tories in Stirling Council this week to force through a 1 per cent council tax cut in the council's budget.
Labour has previously taken a wide variety of positions on council tax. The party's 2011 manifesto included a promise to freeze council tax for two years, but a number of Labour politicians - including Ms Lamont - have also criticised the council tax freeze and called for it be scrapped.
James Dornan, SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart, said: "Johann Lamont must now spell out Labour's policy on the council tax. Does she back the council tax cut that the Labour-Tory pact in Stirling forced through this week?
"Labour's position on the council tax has always been wildly inconsistent and confused. At various times they have opposed a freeze, backed a freeze, opposed a freeze again - and now they are actually cutting council tax.
"Does Johann Lamont back the actions of her party's Stirling councillors? Or does she agree with those Labour politicians who want to scrap the SNP government's council tax freeze, which is providing invaluable help for hard-pressed households across Scotland? She can't have it both ways.
"The fact is that Labour's credibility on the council tax has always been very shaky - but this week's events have destroyed it completely.
"In contrast, the SNP has funded councils well in the financial circumstances we face and we have given families 5 years of a sustainable and affordable council tax freeze. The SNP has delivered responsible budgets for councils and families."
"... Johann Lamont, who is the close second favourite to become leader, said the council tax freeze was 'reckless' and should be scrapped..." * (Mail on Sunday, 11 December 2011)
Deputy Labour leader Johann Lamont said: "A five-year freeze was always totally unrealistic. It will hammer public services." * (Daily Record, May 11, 2011)
In her acceptance speech (17th December 2011) as leader Johann Lamont said:
"We need to challenge ourselves to find new ways of delivering social justice in an age when resources are scarce."
On 15th March 2010 Labour's housing spokesperson Johann Lamont issued a press release claiming a Council Tax freeze took money away from housing grants.
"It looks like the SNP is asking the housing industry and local communities to pay the price to protect its own party political priorities, like the centrally imposed Council Tax freeze."
Iain Gray, The Herald, 3rd October 2010
"It does not look to us that the Council Tax freeze is sustainable."
Daily Record, 17th August 2010
"Labour leader Iain Gray demands end to Council Tax freeze to help authorities offset Tory cuts"
Scottish Labour called yesterday for the SNP government to end the Council Tax freeze...
...Gray's call came after Labour-led Glasgow became the first local authority in Scotland to challenge the council Tax Freeze publicly.
GCC Leader Gordon Matheson said he needed the option of raising extra cash to offset "brutal" cuts as the city seeks savings of £180 million over the next three years.
On his biog page on the Scottish Labour party website Labour's Local Government spokesman Michael McMahon says a Council Tax freeze equals cuts:
"The Council Tax freeze means that Councils have been forced to make cuts that they know will damage local services."
In a Scottish Parliament debate on 19th May 2010, Michael McMahon criticised a Council Tax freeze claiming it would benefit those hit hardest by recession least:
"The fact is that those who are hardest hit by the recession, and by social exclusion generally, are those who benefit least from the Council Tax freeze"
In a Scottish Parliament debate on 19th May 2010, Sarah Boyack, Labour Spokesperson on Rural Development & Environment, criticised a council tax freeze claiming it had to be paid for from higher rents, higher costs for facilities, cuts to voluntary organizations and privatisation.
"In Edinburgh, the freeze has been paid for through higher council house rents, higher costs for sports facilities and in-year funding cuts to voluntary organisations. In future it will be paid for through the privatisation of thousands of jobs..."
In a Parliamentary debate on 25th March 2009 Labour MSP Helen Eadie went as far to suggest that the consequences of a Council Tax freeze could be people dying:
Helen Eadie (Dunfermline East) (Lab): Campaigners in Scotland warned that people would die as a result of the cuts, which councils blame on the SNP Government's Council Tax freeze.