By Martin Kelly
Labour’s Scottish Leader Johann Lamont has been urged to clarify the party’s position on council tax after several Scottish Labour local authority groups appeared to adopt contradictory positions.
The calls, from their SNP opponents, follow announcements from Glasgow Labour and their party counterparts in the Highlands.

In Glasgow the Labour group last week pledged a council tax freeze for five years, despite group leader Gordon Matheson claiming in 2010 that such a move would lead to the loss of two hundred teachers.

However, the Labour Highland manifesto condemns the council tax freeze, whilst the Edinburgh manifesto makes no mention of what the party would do.  At least one local authority, Stirling, has witnessed a cut in council tax after Labour backed a Tory proposal.

Derek Mackay, the SNP's Local Government Campaign Director claimed Labour were in “a complete mess” over their position on the council tax.  Mr Mackay said:
“Labour candidates in one part of the country support a 5-year freeze, while Labour candidates in another party are condemning the freeze.  This just shows why Labour cannot be trusted.
“They have absolutely no credibility on this issue and Johann Lamont must start showing some leadership and tell the voters what Labour stand for.”

Under Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour party initially opposed the freeze on council tax, but switched shortly before the Scottish election in 2011 and pledged a two year freeze.

However in the aftermath of Labour's defeat, Gray’s replacement Johann Lamont called the council tax freeze "unrealistic" and claimed it would "hammer public services".

Speaking during the Labour leadership campaign last year, Ms Lamont called the Scottish Government's council tax freeze "reckless" and said it should be scrapped.

Mr Mackay insisted that the people deserved to know what Scottish Labour’s national policy was and added:
“But this about a more fundamental issue of honesty.  If Labour council groups can’t even talk to each other and their national party on something as basic as a position on Council Tax, how on earth can we expect them to work together to deliver vital services and help build for economic recovery.
“It is time for Johann Lamont to end these inconsistent and confusing changes in policy – at various times they have opposed a freeze, backed a freeze, opposed a freeze again – and in Stirling Council they even backed cutting it.
“The fact is, average council tax across Scotland went up by 60 per cent under Labour.  With a track record like this, it is no wonder that Labour are fielding even less candidates than last time.”
Labour’s Glasgow manifesto commits the council to a five-year freeze, after leader Gordon Matheson had called for the freeze to be scrapped, and just weeks after Scottish Labour’s Deputy Leader Anas Sarwar had said “I don’t think that’s credible. I don’t think that’s progressive.”
Mr Matheson claimed in 2010 that accepting the Scottish Government’s deal to freeze council tax was made “with a gun to my head”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Good Morning Scotland in August that same year Mr Matheson claimed that the SNP move threatened teacher jobs and services for the vulnerable and added:

"I'm calling for the option of being able to raise council tax in order to offset some of the more brutal cuts that we will have to make.

"We need to be able to have the option of comparing the impact of increasing the council tax with some of the more brutal options we face”

Hear Gordon Matheson attacking the council tax freeze on BBC Radio Scotland


# Wave Machine 2012-04-17 06:55
The comments from Labour in the Highlands are interesting.

I have a few thoughts on this.

Highland Council is a large employer in the Highlands, and the individual departments are run like little empires with individuals in management positions trying to keep a large healthy pot of money available with corresponding team and staff sizes. It justifies positions and careers. The council is also heavily unionised, with Unison to the fore. The Unison stewards, while probably well meaning, don't always act in the best interests of the services to the public and certainly, in my experience, don't have an understanding of credible and sensible spending of public money.

In the recent past, I personally don't think many key projects and departments have been well run.

The council tax freeze doesn't allow for the seemingly endless amounts of funds being available for spending. Budgets are squeezed and the end result is a down sizing of departments, with a leaner operation. Vested individual interests then come under threat.

I'm only a grumpy council tax payer, so my vested interest is seeing my hard earned cash being well spent on local services. I don't trust Labour councillors to do that in the Highlands. I repeat my oft used phrase; " to many vested interests."
# Robabody 2012-04-17 15:23
Quoting Wave Machine:
I'm only a grumpy council tax payer, so my vested interest is seeing my hard earned cash being well spent on local services. I don't trust Labour councillors to do that in the Highlands. I repeat my oft used phrase; " to many vested interests."

Yes WM and they need to remember that our hard earned belongs to us and not them. Something labour clearly forgets every time it gets a sniff of power. Exile has the rights of it too.
# Exile 2012-04-17 06:57
The missing piece of the puzzle is the issue of efficiency (and honesty) in government. Labour need more money to achieve less for the public. This is due partly to corruption and partly to sheer incompetence.
# alexb 2012-04-17 08:09
Johann Lamont. Clarity? You having a laugh, right. Labour couldn,t "run a menage". Let them stay confused and hand the S.N.P an even greater victory come May 3rd.
# Vincent McDee 2012-04-17 11:05
Ewan Crawford, lecturer in Journalism at the University of the West of Scotland and former private secretary to John Sweeney, explains the reasons for this aparent confusion:

"If the Scottish National party takes Glasgow in May, the shock waves will go to the top of Labour's hierarchy. A Scottish earthquake that could bury Ed Miliband"
# proudscot 2012-04-17 12:41
I think Lamont's position on Council Tax, as with anything else, is if the SNP propose it, we (Labour) oppose it. "Simples!" as the Meerkat says in the TV advert.

Wee Willie Bain let the cat out of the bag on this "unprincipled principle" in a tweet a few weeks ago.
# Zed 2012-04-17 12:44

Twitter storm brewing about comments made by Inverclyde Labour MP Iain MacKenzie.
He's basically been caught lying about SNP involvement in the fight to keep Clyde coastguard open.
Even going as far as to say closure "welcomed by Nat member for W/Isles"
I, and many others have asked him to back up his comments with proof - so far nothing - surpise surprise.
Campaign group @Coastguard_sos have stated he is very wrong to say SNP were not surportive.
Anyone wishing to join the debate you can see his online comments @InverclydeMP.
Maybe a good story for NNS to follow up
# Dundonian West 2012-04-17 13:59
Zed."Campaign group @Coastguard_sos have stated he is very wrong to say SNP were not surportive.".
It's not the first time he's got something wrong.
Much of his time,quite rightly is spent at Westminster,jus t repeating the rather shaky indecisive party line as decided by Milliband and the Executive.
Seems to be fixed in the Unionist position of my turn/your turn.

Back bencher.One of many,Labour,Inv erclyde.
His voting record is exemplary----voting loyally with the leadership on all his votes.

# GrassyKnollington 2012-04-17 13:39
Oh is that Mrs. Lamont? The leader of all "Scottish" Labour.

Nice to see her back. Someone should tell the yoonyinist meeja that she's around in case they want to interview her about.....well anything.

Next thing we'll have to start a campaign to get poor Johann some airtime.
# Barbazenzero 2012-04-17 15:59
Unusually, I have to disagree with you, GK. Surely La Mont's best hope at the moment is Graylike invisibility.

That would seem to be the Tangerine one's opinion in his latest Keeping it local - - he not only avoids mentioning her name but even the names of the parties contesting the elections.

Unlike the Scottish Labour unveils council pledges - - article dedicated to her, where she tries to reduce anyone's inflated opinions of her abilities, 'accused SNP ministers of passing UK cuts to Scots councils' and 'accepted the SNP was likely to "do better" at the May 3 election compared to the previous ballot in 2007'.

Hardly suggests she's brimming with confidence, methinks.
# GrassyKnollington 2012-04-17 17:24
Indeed, MaCavity La Mont coming out of hiding may not turn out to be Labour's trump card.

Interesting about Brian failing to mention any names or political parties.

His occasional blogs now cleared of comments are as anodyne, lacking political analysis or opinion and blandly uncontentious as ever.

The only thing that made it worth reading was the below the line comments.

Brian is BBC Scotland's senior political editor and he made his blog balanced by putting nothing in it.

Despite that it always amused me how when Wendy, Gray or La Mont had a car crash at FMQ Brian, through his trusty BBC goggles, saw another sterling performance.
# Barbazenzero 2012-04-17 18:50
There, we're in agreement. I suppose that nothingness is better less awful than the "service" that gentleman usually provides.
# GrassyKnollington 2012-04-17 22:01
true. Just to clarify I'm not really glad she's back. It's kind of a running joke that she's been pretty near invisible for weeks. Her deputy Anas Sarwar has been far more prominent. I need a bitter irony symbol :O)
# oldnat 2012-04-17 22:10
We've had a good irony symbol for many years!

# GrassyKnollington 2012-04-17 22:17
hg wit!
# mato21 2012-04-17 14:55
The Guardian speaks to Ms Lamont
# Marga B 2012-04-17 15:40
Yes, "Scottish Labour accepts second place behind SNP in May council elections".

Whereas apparently Labour in general now has an 8% lead over the Conservatives.
# oldnat 2012-04-17 16:25
Not "in general" - "in England".
# Marga B 2012-04-17 16:29
Ah, yes, a bit different!
# Mac 2012-04-17 14:58
In 2010 Gordon Matheson was arguing that 'brutal options' had to be considered in making cuts to council spending by extending a council tax freeze.

In 2012 Gordom Matheson has made a commitment to long term council tax freeze. Sure it is beholding on Councillor Matheson to now list the 'brutal options' that he is considering in order to make the cuts in council spending.

Is one of those 'brutal options' the sacking of teachers?

Surely the teaching unions are also making representations to the Glasgow Labour party to raise their own concerns over such a 'brutal option'.
# Vincent McDee 2012-04-17 15:37
Putting the SNP in charge of councils is like getting Rangers owner Craig Whyte to do your tax return, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has said.

She said local authorities were underfunded, and accused Mr Salmond of passing on 89% of Westminster government cuts to councils.

With her aritmethics skills I wonder how could she reach such an acurate percentage.
# Dundonian West 2012-04-17 16:05
"We are in the midst of a Scottish unemployment crisis," said Ms Lamont, adding: "Behind every statistic is the tragedy of a family losing an income and a person suffering the indignity of being out of work."BBC.
Your once great Party dropped us into this mess.Brown,Darling,a nd the rest of that Cabinet.
Don't moan about "a person suffering the indignity of being out of work."
To point score on the backs of the poor is reprehensible.

Your Party removed HOPE from these people.

I work with them,in their homes and when they come to see me.
They know where the blame lies,"Anything but Labour".The poor and disenfranchised also have memories Ms Lamont.
Scottish Independence includes taking effective responsibility for the economy,LOCALLY ,and of Scotland as a whole.That is our intention--to make things better---you certainly won't do it.
# Dcanmore 2012-04-17 16:39
Good quote from Ms Lamont, I hope Craig Whyte takes her and Labour to court for defamation.

Unless of course it's not meant to put Craig Whyte in a negative way which means the whole soundbite is pointless, just like herself really.
# alicmurray 2012-04-17 15:52
O/T. Good article in Guardian - Lamont admitting SNP increase seats in May.
# balbeggie 2012-04-17 16:03
Their internal polling must not be encouraging then?

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