SNP vows to maintain council tax freeze as church leader warns against policy


The SNP has confirmed its intention to keep the council tax freeze until it finds a way to replace it after a church leader called on the next Scottish government to "set councils free".

The current SNP administration said it has given councils more than enough money to cover the cost of the freeze, which it estimates has saved the average band D household around £1,550.

But Rev David Robertson, moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, said the freeze is "handicapping councils, whilst subsidising the rich".

He also attacked Scotland's largest council for paying out six-figure sums to managers and allowing a former director of social care to depart with £240,000.

The Scottish Government said it expects councils to ensure public sector pay demonstrates value for money.

Glasgow City Council said the figures quoted by Mr Robertson include compensation for redundancies, which have reduced the wage bill and saved the city £50 million a year.

Mr Robertson said "councils are in crisis" and are being "compelled to make savage cuts".

He said: "The Scottish Government is enslaved to a policy which seemed like a good idea at the time but is now handicapping councils, whilst subsidising the rich.

"The council tax freeze worked well as a temporary populist measure, but to have it as an indefinite policy in a time of austerity is the economics of fairyland.

"In the upcoming Scottish parliamentary elections I wonder if any of the political parties will be prepared to set Scotland's councils free."

He said "civil servants have more power than elected officials and therefore reap the rewards".

He went on: "Glasgow City Council state they have seven managers with a package of more than £100,000 per annum, though the TaxPayers' Alliance suspects this figure is much higher.

"In what world does it make sense to have one tax-funded employee earning almost double the salary of the Prime Minister or the First Minister?

"In his final year David Crawford, the executive director of social care services, had a total package of £240,000.

"At a time when social care is being slashed I'm sure the poor are delighted to know that the person who was being paid to look after them was being made rich."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "The Scottish Government has funded the council tax freeze to the tune of almost £500 million since 2008 to ensure local authorities are able to continue to provide the essential services they are responsible for.

"We recognise the pressures on budgets across the whole of the public sector, and in households throughout Scotland, which is why it is important to maintain the council tax freeze... while we consider ways to replace it, as well as reimbursing local authorities.

"Pay for local government employees is a matter for local authorities, which as independent bodies accountable to their electorates are responsible for managing their own budgets.

"In those areas in which Scottish ministers control pay, we are bearing down on pay and bonuses to help ensure that public sector pay in Scotland remains affordable, sustainable and demonstrates value for money."

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: "The figures being quoted are not salaries.

"They include compensation for redundancy - which is this cost of huge reductions in our wage bill, including management costs.

"That policy now saves the city £50 million every year and helps protect the very public services the moderator is rightly anxious to retain, even as we face the most severe cuts to local government budgets in memory."