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Leading economist challenges council tax reforms

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Professor David Bell
Professor David Bell will present evidence on proposed council tax changes

Professor David Bell of the University of Stirling is to present evidence to the Scottish Parliament Local Government and Communities Committee, challenging Scottish Government proposals to change council tax.

The economist will advise that the suggested changes to the current system, including an increase on tax on bands E-H and a lift on the council tax freeze, do not significantly address the concerns around Scotland’s local property taxes.

Professor Bell of Stirling Management School said: “The proposed increases in council tax will have substantially different implications on revenue across the 32 local authorities and will not be uniform across the board. In Eilean Siar in the Outer Hebrides, for example, only 10 per cent of the housing stock is allocated to bands E to H, while in East Renfrewshire the proportion is 56 per cent.

“The net incomes of richer households will be reduced more than those of poorer households, however the poorest 10 per cent of households will see their net income reduced by less than 0.02 per cent. Meanwhile the richest 10 per cent of households will see their net income reduced by 0.2 per cent, a relatively modest increase for the most expensive properties.”

The expert also believes the proposed changes will add to the complexity of the tax.

“According to the Commission on Local Tax Reform, tax rules should be clear and simple to understand. These new reliefs will add to the administrative burden that local authorities face and prove difficult to understand and explain to members of the public”, Professor Bell added.

“Although the Commission on Local Tax Reform wants to radically change the current system, overall these proposed alterations are very modest, and do not address the problems with the system or allow local government to retain revenues they generate.”

Professor of Economics at the University since 1990, Professor Bell is an expert in UK public finances and has made significant contributions to the devolved parliaments including 

He was Budget Adviser to the Finance Committee at the Scottish Parliament from 2007 to 2013 and specialist advisor to the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

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