Scotland

Scots Labour leader Gray promises council tax freeze

Iain Gray
Image caption Iain Gray said his party would freeze council tax in Scotland for two years if he won power

Scottish Labour has pledged to freeze council tax for the next two years, matching the SNP commitment.

The party's Holyrood leader Iain Gray said "now is not the time to increase the burden on household budgets".

The announcement marks an apparent change of direction for the party, as Mr Gray had previously indicated he would cap council tax rises if he won May's Scottish Parliament election.

The SNP has frozen council tax since coming to power in 2007.

It has also vowed to continue the policy beyond the next election if the party retained power at Holyrood.

Meanwhile, Mr Gray said the new policy would not result in frontline services suffering.

He said: "We are saying that Labour will freeze the council tax for the year ahead and the following year because now is just not the time to make big changes in the local tax base."

Mr Gray said the policy would be funded through his party's programme of public sector reform and the potential of UK government plans to devolve council tax funding.

He added: "I have already talked with my colleagues in local government and they understand the situation and I think agree with what we're saying we will do.

"The budget for the year ahead of us has already been agreed and 32 local authorities have set budgets with council tax freezes and there are other changes on the way."

Hitting out at the policy, SNP MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville, said: "This is a humiliation for Iain Gray who has had to twist and turn on the issue of council tax freeze after saying Labour would end it.

"After their attacks on a council tax freeze it is yet another example of hypocrisy."

The Tories' Derek Brownlee, added: "For the past four years, Labour has opposed the council tax freeze and recently Iain Gray was caught off-guard saying that the freeze would end if Labour got into power.

"This U-turn can't be viewed as anything other than an increasingly desperate Labour Party saying anything to get through the election."

Lib Dem finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis, said his party would not block a council tax freeze, but argued: "Labour and the SNP have done nothing of this so it is a pretty fast and loose approach from both Iain Gray and Alex Salmond."

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