SNP'S WHITE FLAG FOR POLL TAX DODGERS; Outrage as Sturgeon Writes off PS425million Debt; Sturgeon Scraps Tax Cheats' Debts

Daily Mail (London), December 5, 2014 | Go to article overview

SNP'S WHITE FLAG FOR POLL TAX DODGERS; Outrage as Sturgeon Writes off PS425million Debt; Sturgeon Scraps Tax Cheats' Debts


Byline: Alan Roden Scottish Political Editor

POLL tax debts totalling PS425million are to be written off by Nicola Sturgeon in her first piece of legislation as SNP leader.

The 'tax dodgers' charter' will be rushed through parliament by February, with cash-strapped councils given only PS869,000 in compensation.

The amnesty was officially announced yesterday, only a day after it emerged that middle-income homebuyers face being hammered by higher taxes under the SNP next year.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said Miss Sturgeon had, in less than a fortnight, 'achieved the staggering feat of becoming even more Left-wing than Ed Miliband'.

The new Bill will make all summary warrants relating to Margaret Thatcher's poll tax - officially known as the Community Charge - 'unenforceable' from February 1. The Department for Work and Pensions will also be ordered to stop clawing back payments from social security benefits. New figures show Glasgow City Council is owed PS125million in outstanding debt, with Edinburgh due PS72million, South Lanarkshire PS31million and North Lanarkshire PS25million.

Yesterday, it emerged that the City of One Edinburgh Council is facing cuts of up to PS67million by 2017, which is likely to decimate public services.

The one-off pot of PS869,000 will be shared between Scotland's 32 local authorities as part of a compensation package.

This is despite council chiefs managing to recover PS1.3million in 2009, while a mass voter registration drive prior to September's referendum opened up the possibility of chasing more historic debt.

As well as infuriating law-abiding Scots who paid the poll tax, despite its widespread unpopularity, the move means taxpayers are now effectively subsidising those who refused to pay.

Tory MSP Alex Johnstone said last night: 'This compensation equates to about 0.2 per cent of the total debt - it would barely cover the administration costs.

'This is another example of the SNP announcing things on the hoof, then letting taxpayers pick up the slack. It's wrong that this tax dodgers' charter has been announced - does it mean people can stop paying council tax and hope there's a generous government who'll write it off in 20 years' time? 'The Scottish Government's determination to do this will result in council tax payers now settling the debt of those who refused to pay previously.' The Community Charge was introduced a year early north of the Border, sparking widespread opposition and an organised campaign of non-payment in 1989.

Around 700,000 summary warrants for non-payment were issued after the first year, but Mrs Thatcher refused to change course and the tax was introduced in England in 1990.

Disgraced former MSP Tommy Sheridan was the first person in Britain to be jailed over the tax, while a series of protests brought about its end in 1993.

A total of PS425.3million remains outstanding in Scotland, with collection rates dropping in recent years to PS327,000 in 2013-14.

But council chiefs had wanted to improve on that by combing the new electoral roll to catch those who had dropped off the radar. …

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