Archived news: published on Friday 02 Apr 2004 by Fife Council
Council Leader Anne McGovern
Members of Fife Council have voted to keep the Council Tax system as it is until the current review, taking place in Scotland and England, is completed.
At a recent meeting of Fife Council Cllr Anne McGovern, Leader of the Administration acknowledged that changes did have to be made and said: "We know that the current system is not perfect and can be unfair for those on low income. However I do not want to see a repeat of the introduction of the Poll Tax which was ill-thought out and created havoc both for local authorities and local communities. Indeed Fife Council is still continuing to pursue debt from the period when this tax was introduced.
"Fife Council achieves collection rates in excess of 97% which shows that the majority of people in Fife do pay their council tax. However there are still households which, for whatever reason, find it difficult to meet the monthly payments and get into debt. This is not acceptable. People must pay the money that is due to the Council as we rely on that income when we are budgetting for services for the coming year. If people let us know in time that they are having difficulty in paying then we can offer assistance. We understand that for people on low income it can be difficult but until a fairer system is introduced there is no other choice than to pay the money that is due.
"I welcomed the debate that the motion proposed by Cllr Maxwell, stimulated. I think it was clear that members want to see a fairer system introduced, they accept that this should not be rushed and that we should wait for the outcome of the review before taking any further action."
Council Tax bills for 2004-05 have now been delivered to every household in Fife. The bills not only include council tax charges but also charges for water and sewerage, which Fife Council are obliged to collects on behalf of Scottish Water. Council tax charges in Fife were increased by 3.5% this year, compared to a 5% increase levied by Scottish Water on water and sewerage charges. Fife Council has no control over the charges made by Scottish Water. The new rates are effective from 1 April 2004.
And, for the first time, this year customers can check their council tax banding on-line. A quick council tax finder has been developed. Users simply type in their postcode and house number and instantly, their council tax banding with the council tax and water and sewerage charges, pops up as well as a list of local facilities such as schools and leisure centres. The council tax finder can be found by logging onto www.fifedirect.org.uk/counciltax
Members of Fife Council also debated a motion proposed by Cllr McGovern which said there was a major problem of affordability of water charges for low income households which was reinforcing poverty for many families and individuals.
Cllr McGovern said: "The current relief scheme established by the Scottish Executive needs to be revised and aligned with the benefit system to ensure help is given to all households on low income."
The motion was supported unanimously.