Magazine article Public Finance

Lessons for Lyons

Magazine article Public Finance

Lessons for Lyons

Article excerpt

As understatements go, it was pretty impressive. Sir Michael Lyons admitted last week that he had 'read with interest' the report by Sir Peter Burt into local government finance in Scotland.

Burt, at least, did come up with some radical solut ions only to find himself in the uncomfortable position of having the first minister make a bonfire of his main proposals before he had even revealed them (see News Analysis, pages 14-15).

Scrapping council tax in favour of a 1% house price levy was bold, but had the distinct political disadvantage of being likely to bring 'Middle Scotland on to the streets as their bills doubled.

Burt's other wheeze, a deferment scheme to help 'asset rich but cash poor' pensioners, was greeted with glee by the Daily Mail, which summed it up as 'Children to pay council tax bills from the grave.

No wonder Jack McConnell, with the Holyrood elections only six months away and the SNP hot on his heels, greeted Burt's ideas with all the enthusiasm of a cuttlefish sighting a piranha.

Lyons, wise in the ways of Whitehall, is unlikely to provoke the same tsunami with his report on English local government. …

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