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Last Updated: Saturday, 5 March, 2005, 15:40 GMT
New bands answer to tax reforms
Tom McCabe
Tom McCabe floated the idea of additional council tax bands
The finance minister has suggested the creation of additional bands as part of a reform of the council tax system.

Speaking at the Labour conference in Dundee, Tom McCabe attacked opposition parties who have called for its change.

He defended the property-based levy and said it combined local accountability with central support and national qualities at a local level.

The Scottish Executive launched a review and consultation exercise into the tax-raising system last year.

The independent probe, headed by former banker Sir Peter Burt, will study different forms of local taxation, including possible reforms of the council tax, and draw up a list of pros and cons for change.

We know it's unlikely we will convince anyone to enjoy paying their taxes but we can convince them that Labour will spend public resources effectively
Tom McCabe
Finance Minister

Mr McCabe told delegates on Saturday: "It would be foolish to ignore changes that have taken place to property values across Scotland and the distortion this has created in the current system.

"That's not an argument for ripping up the current system.

"It's an argument for examining whether there should be more bands at both the higher and lower levels, alongside ensuring that the current system is as fair as possible.

"We know it's unlikely we will convince anyone to enjoy paying their taxes but we can convince them that Labour will spend public resources effectively.

"And we can dispel the myths of the Tories and the so-called Scottish Socialists that through some magic system everyone can pay less, and at the same time get more."

'Tried and tested'

The Conservatives, Scottish National Party and the Scottish Socialist Party have all challenged the wisdom of continuing with the council tax system, which Labour still supports as "the tried and tested" method for raising revenue for local services.

The conference later heard a fierce defence of Scotland's local councils who, delegates were told, could give other parts of the public sector lessons in efficiency.

Local authorities are facing an executive-ordered efficiency drive covering the whole of the public sector.

The President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities Pat Watters said: "We are some of the best-managed and most financially-efficient organisations in this country and we stand scrutiny against anybody."


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