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Local council tax concerns raised

Highlands and Islands MSP, Jamie Halcro Johnston says a solution to council tax must be found to ease the burden on households.

Local councils and the Scottish Government have been questioned on how they might help households struggling to pay council tax bills.

With bills for the year ahead increasing by nearly 5 per cent for many, Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has written to Orkney’s interim chief executive, John Mundell, as well as executives in Moray and Shetland, to ask what local support is being considered.

The Conservative MSP has also contacted Local Government Secretary Aileen Campbell to ask what consideration the Scottish Government has given to supporting councils who were deferring or reducing payments for residents struggling to pay.

Mr Halcro Johnston said: “Along with mortgage payments and rent, council tax is a considerable monthly expenditure for a lot of households, including those not eligible for existing Council Tax Reduction schemes.

“The Chancellor has worked to improve access to mortgage holidays, a measure which has been universally welcomed. And he has moved quickly to make funds available to support individuals and businesses in what are extremely challenging times.

“The Scottish Government has also moved quickly to draw on that funding, with a package of support available for businesses and communities across Scotland.

“But with annual bills for council tax being delivered to households across the Highlands and Islands in recent days, there is concern from many local residents, particularly those whose ability to work and earn has been impacted by the Covid-19 outbreak, that this is just another bill to pay and one coming at a time when their income is reduced.

“It’s important that a solution can be found to ease the burden on already stretched household incomes, while supporting the already under-pressure financial resources of our local councils. However that is delivered, Scottish Government and local authorities will need to work together on this.

“I am confident that action will be taken on this and support forthcoming, but it would be good to get details as soon as possible to help allay the fears of many of my constituents”.