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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 January, 2004, 13:30 GMT
Cosla defends council tax rises
Council tax form
Council tax rises are becoming unaffordable, campaigners say
The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) has defended its ability to raise council tax.

It comes as thousands of pensioners gather in London to present a petition to 10 Downing Street arguing that they cannot afford further increases.

Cosla said rises in Scotland would be higher than inflation and customers would benefit from better services.

The campaign group Is It Fair wants council tax replaced with a new tax based on people's ability to pay.

Alisdair Murdoch, secretary of Is It Fair in Scotland, said more people were becoming disillusioned with council tax rises.

We are providing tremendous quality service for the people who pay that council tax
John Pentland
The campaign group claims, on average, the cost of council tax has risen by up to 70% since 1997.

Mr Murdoch said people wanted to convey the message to politicians that the increases do not reflect an ability to pay.

John Pentland, financial spokesman for Cosla, said he expected the average council tax rise in Scotland to be above the rate of inflation.

Protest planned

He said: "You have to cope with the money given to you by central government and, from the 3.5% already indicated, we are providing through local authorities tremendous quality service for the people who pay that council tax."

Mr Murdoch said support for the Is It Fair campaign in Scotland is growing and the group is planning a protest outside the first minister's official residence, Bute House, next month.

He said: "The response has been quite overpowering and I get letters addressed to Is It Fair, Strathaven, and for some reason the postman seems to know where to bring them."

'Refuse to pay'

Professor Richard Curley, specialist in local government at Queen Margaret University College in Edinburgh, said some people may start to refuse to pay the increased council tax.

He said: "They then become a debtor and then the local authority is obliged to take action against them."

Cosla president Pat Watters said he was not in favour of introducing a local income tax as it would remove local councillors' ability to actually raise taxes.

During the march in London on Saturday, pensioners will hand in a petition, containing 35,000 names, to the prime minister's residence.

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17 Jan 04  |  Business
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15 Jan 04  |  Scotland

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