03 October 2016
SCVO welcomes the opportunity to respond to this call for evidence. Rather than focus on aspects of implementation, we take a broad approach in our response.
Firstly, many in our sector are supporters of the principle of subsidiarity – that is, that decisions concerning communities should be taken as close to those communities as possible. In an ideal world, Scotland would have a reformed local democracy where communities were engaged and involved, and where Council Tax, in whatever form, was discussed and adjusted by those very communities. Whilst our local government elections suffer from low turnout, the principle of subsidiarity is still sound – so we ask to what extent it is desirable for central government to seek to implement such specific reforms to local tax
Secondly, with the move to open data and transparency – something that the Scottish Government is part of through the multilateral Open Government Partnership, and that civil society is involved in– it is perhaps surprising that a revaluation of properties is not currently included in the proposed plans. Whilst carrying out an up-to-date valuation of properties across Scotland would ensure that any changes proposed would be grounded in the true value of the property – potentially removing some of the anomalies in the current system – it could also, if opened up, provide people with data that they themselves would be able to use to design and suggest their own systems, and so help to bring communities into the local tax discussion.
Finally, as we have offered in previous discussions of taxation, both to this committee and to others, we are keen to see any tax system in the round follow certain principles. Relevant to local taxation, these are that the system should:
- be progressive, based on the ability to pay, so that low-income households are not faced with bills they cannot meet; and
- have a connection to the locality, alongside better participatory forms of engagement, such as mini publics, citizens’ juries, and participatory budgeting.
And, when Council Tax, as for all taxes, is discussed and presented, language must be used carefully, so that those who cannot pay are not demonised or demoralised.
Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations,
Tel: 0131 474 8001
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is the national body representing the third sector. There are over 45,000 voluntary organisations in Scotland involving around 138,000 paid staff and approximately 1.3 million volunteers. The sector manages an income of £4.9 billion.
SCVO works in partnership with the third sector in Scotland to advance our shared values and interests. We have over 1,600 members who range from individuals and grassroots groups, to Scotland-wide organisations and intermediary bodies.
As the only inclusive representative umbrella organisation for the sector SCVO:
- has the largest Scotland-wide membership from the sector – our 1,600 members include charities, community groups, social enterprises and voluntary organisations of all shapes and sizes
- our governance and membership structures are democratic and accountable – with an elected board and policy committee from the sector, we are managed by the sector, for the sector
- brings together organisations and networks connecting across the whole of Scotland
- SCVO works to support people to take voluntary action to help themselves and others, and to bring about social change.