Councils 'don't agree' to Humza Yousaf's 'deplorable' council tax freeze

The decision by the First Minister has sparked fury from local political leaders.

Scotland’s local authorities have said there is “absolutely no agreement” on Humza Yousaf’s surprise announcement to freeze council tax next year.

Local government body COSLA described the move by the First Minister as “deplorable” and said it had no prior warning.

It launched an emergency meeting of political group leaders on Wednesday and said there was “real anger” at the decision.

A statement from COSLA said: “There is absolutely no agreement to freeze council tax next year.

“The announcement of a council tax freeze as we said yesterday was made completely without reference to local government and there is no agreement to freeze council tax next year, the decision to freeze council tax is one which can only be made by councils.

“Our cross-party group leaders held an emergency meeting first thing this morning on the back of the announcement and there is real anger at the way this has been handled and what it puts at risk.”

The group said it has asked for an urgent meeting with the First Minister ahead of a meeting with Shona Robison, the deputy first minister.

The statement continued: “We deplore the way the announcement was made and its substance, both of which fly in the face of the Verity House Agreement which we all recently signed. 

“It has been shown that previous council tax freezes have been regressive, having no impact for the poorest in society and eroding the council tax base, compounding councils’ ongoing underfunding.

“We will explore the implications arising and what the Scottish Government might propose when we meet with the deputy first minister later today – but we are clear that local taxation and particularly Council Tax should be left for democratically elected councils to determine.”

The Verity House Agreement is a partnership signed by COSLA and the Scottish Government under Yousaf which sets out the relationship between the two.

The Scottish Greens, which only found out hours before the announcement at the SNP conference, also criticised the tax freeze.

MSP Ross Greer said: “We are concerned about the effect this freeze could have on already-strained frontline public services if it is not properly funded.

“Our local councils and people who rely on services like social care, schools and early years centres must not lose out as a result of this announcement.”

Ross Greer expressed concern about the council tax freeze.Getty Images

Revealing the decision on Tuesday during his keynote speech at his party’s conference, Yousaf said Scots were filled with “dread” as bills continued to go “up and up”.

“We can’t stop all the bills rising – but where we can act, we should,” he said. “I’ve considered carefully what steps we can take to help.

“Council tax bills in Scotland are already hundreds of pounds a year lower than they are in England.

“We’re committed to fundamentally reforming local taxation and we will re-energise our work to do that. We have consulted on what level the council tax should be next year.

“And conference, we have reached our decision. I can announce to the people of Scotland that, next year, your council tax will be frozen.”

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