Glasgow councillor calls on council tax to be suspended

Conservative group leader Thomas Kerr has written to the city treasurer calling for a council tax 'moratorium'.

Glasgow: Council stresses it doesn't have power to suspend tax.
Glasgow: Council stresses it doesn't have power to suspend tax.

A councillor in Glasgow has called for council tax to be suspended to ease the financial impact of the coronavirus.

Councillor Thomas Kerr, leader of the Conservative group at Glasgow City Council, has written to the council’s city treasurer urging him to explore the possibility of “moratorium on the payment of council tax“.

The local authority stressed it does not have the power to suspend council tax but says its policy is to help people struggling with arrears.

In his letter to SNP councillor Allan Gow, Cllr Kerr said if a full blanket suspension is not possible, another potential solution could be a system of delayed payments targeted at those in the most financial difficulty.

It comes as the Scottish Government laid out a series of measures, worth around £2.2bn, to protect Scottish businesses during the Covid-19 outbreak, mirroring the huge stimulus package set out by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

They include the suspension of business rates for a year for all retail, hospitality and leisure companies, along with a system of grants and loans for the business community.

An additional £350m was confirmed by Scottish communities secretary Aileen Campbell on Wednesday aimed at supporting people, including £50m for a new financial hardship fund to be administered by councils.

Cllr Kerr wrote: “The recent coronavirus outbreak is having a serious impact on the earnings of those employed by our hospitality, retail, tourism and leisure industries and this disruption is set to continue for the foreseeable future and affect all sectors of the economy.

“In such a circumstance, many of our constituents will be worried about how they are going to pay the bills each month and the most substantial bill, other than rent and mortgage payments, will be council tax.

“I believe it would be worthwhile at this time to explore what scope there would be to provide some relief to council tax payers and whether it would be possible to implement a moratorium on the payment of council tax in order to further support the people of Glasgow at this challenging time.

“If not a blanket approach then perhaps support through delayed payments could be targeted at those most acutely affected by loss of earnings.”

He said he had copied in the leaders of the city’s Labour and Green groups.

Responding on Twitter, Green councillor Allan Young called on Holyrood and Westminster emergency legislation, expected in the coming days, to “guarantee a basic income for all those affected as well as ensuring support with council tax and rent payments for those who need it”.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “Councils don’t have the legislative power to suspend council tax – however, Glasgow’s corporate debt policy very much prioritises helping those struggling with arrears.

“In the current situation it is more important than ever that those who can pay do, to allow us focus on those facing a change in their circumstances.”

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