SNP challenges Labour over tax comments

Dumfries and Galloway Council’s SNP group leader has challenged the Labour party over comments made last week about the region’s council tax freeze.

Comments by Labour Leader of Dumfries andGalloway Council, Ronnie Nicholson, were published in the Galloway Gazette criticising the tax freeze, claiming it was costing the authority £16 million a year.

And now, the SNP’s Brian Collins has challenged the Labour Party to confirm whether they would increase council tax if they had the opportunity to do so.

Councillor Collins said: “Ronnie Nicholson talks about people in Dumfries amd Galloway receiving a real-terms discount to the council tax of 25%. I can assure him that is doesn’t feel like that for hard-pressed council tax payers across this region, many of whom will be struggling to pay the bills as we head towards Christmas.

“Mr Nicholson has said often that it is a disgrace that this region has the lowest average wages in Scotland – and he is quite right. Now he seems to be making the case for a 25% increase in council tax. If that is indeed his intention it’s high time he came out publicly andsaid so.

“He may also wish to bear in mind that more than 40% of households in the region are in fuel poverty. Right now people are facing the choice between heating and eating. And this region is not immune from the spread of foodbanks either. If anything their use is on the increase and they are spreading right across Dumfries & Galloway.

“Of course Mr Nicholson is trying everything he can think of to distract attention from his draft budget, which will be published this week and looking to pin the blame for the region’s financial difficulties on the Scottish Government.

“He makes no mention of the savage cuts imposed on Scotland’s devolved budgets by the Westminster Government, which now run into the billions.

“He certainly won’t mention that the Labour Party has already pledged to match Tory austerity if they win the general election next May. And he airbrushes out of history his own role in the last council tax setting in Dumfries and Galloway in 2006, when he teamed up with the Tories to keep the council tax low and made a virtue of the move.”