Humza Yousaf’s rushed announcement of a council tax freeze took minutes to unravel. He did not consult councils, ignored his partners in the Greens and failed to keep his own civil servants in the loop.
The First Minister also declined to put a figure on how much this policy would cost. Another downside is that freezing the tax for everyone will put additional pressure on councils that are already cash-strapped.
The government wants to freeze tax while at the same time protecting teacher numbers – a sizable chunk of a local authority’s spending. Holyrood ministers also want a national guarantee on the amount of time pupils spend in the classroom.
But as we report today, council chiefs are saying they want the power to reduce teacher numbers and classroom hours if a freeze happens. If school hours end up being cut, that would be a terrible blow to pupils already reeling from the loss of schooling during the Covid pandemic.
While axing teaching jobs would destroy morale when teachers are already facing a discipline crisis in the classroom and sky-rocketing stress levels. Lack of cash means councils will have to turn to other areas – such as leisure services and libraries – to find cuts.
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Little wonder then that Cosla believes any freeze should be tied to councils having flexibility on teacher numbers. In the real world, this means cuts to education and the axe being taken to posts.
The better short-term option is to fund councils properly so they can keep rises to a minimum. Ministers should also move urgently to reform the council tax so that it targets those with the deepest pockets.
Council tax is regressive, unfair and hits people on modest means disproportionately. The Government should ditch the sticking plaster of a freeze and have a total rethink on how we fund vital local services.
ITV call a turn-off
Nigel Farage is a far-right twit who, in any sane world, would be consigned to the darker reaches of the internet.
Instead, we find his gormless face being beamed into our homes every night on primetime TV thanks to the new series of I’m a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here.
ITV should hang their heads in shame at giving Farage a platform every night to peddle his brand of hateful “politics”.
It is no surprise that people are turning off in their droves as viewing figures plummet compared to previous series.
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