06 May 2005
Scottish local authorities are fuming at First Minister Jack McConnell's hint that a report on the future of the council tax might be delayed until after the 2007 Holyrood elections.
The report of an inquiry being conducted by an independent committee headed by Sir Peter Burt, the chair of ITV, is due in mid-2006.
But on a campaign visit to Fife, McConnell said he hoped to see the report by the end of the current parliament but was unsure whether it would be completed until after the next Scottish Parliament and local government elections in 2007.
McConnell said: 'You can set targets for these things but it will be in their hands.'
Bodies in favour of retaining council tax, such as the Labour-led Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, fear that a delay could provide the Liberal Democrats with extra time to press for council tax to be scrapped in favour of a local income tax.
They suspect that the Executive would prefer to delay a decision until other bodies, such as the Lyons' review in England, have published their findings.
A Cosla spokesman said this week: 'We are actively seeking clarification from the Executive.'
In a submission to the Burt committee, set up by the Executive last June, Cosla has called for the retention of the council tax – but with extra bands and a revaluation of properties.
The Burt committee was given the task of reviewing the operation of the council tax and considering a range of alternatives including a local income tax,
a land value tax and a local business tax.
Executive officials are currently analysing more than 300 responses to a consultation paper.
The LibDems share power with Labour in the Scottish Executive and might again be in a bargaining position to demand concessions from Labour after the 2007 election.
After the last election in 2003, Labour promised the Lib Dems that the current first-past-the-post voting system would be replaced with a system of proportional representation.
The new voting system is due to come into effect in 2007.