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Modelling the council tax freeze in Scotland – a guide to the facts and figures

Since the council tax freeze was announced, there has been a lot of discussion about its merits (or otherwise). Along with others, at the FAI we have tried to put some numbers in the public domain to illustrate the evidence of impact of the freeze along with the postponement of the consulted change in multipliers.

It is unclear what evidence factored into decision making before the freeze was announced. Given it was an announcement at Conference, civil servants should not have been involved directly.  However, they will be involved now in the process of negotiation with COSLA over how councils will be compensated. In the run-up to the Scottish Budget, we can hope that civil servants are also providing robust advice to the FM and DFM to confirm this is indeed where they want to focus scarce Scottish Government resources.

Evidence on the impact on changes in council tax rates or multipliers is drawn from modelled estimates. Models require assumptions and it is important to note that different estimates can result from (perfectly legitimate) changes in assumptions. Different figures may be produced by different organisations, based on their choice of assumptions. This may be disconcerting for those who want a straightforward answer, but it is unavoidable when it comes to council tax modelling for reasons we will explain.

This note aims to offer additional background on recent estimates, shedding light on their production process, the reasons behind variations, and, crucially, the key insights that remain consistent, regardless of the method of calculation.

Authors

João is Deputy Director and Senior Knowledge Exchange Fellow at the Fraser of Allander Institute. Previously, he was a Senior Fiscal Analyst at the Office for Budget Responsibility, where he led on analysis of long-term sustainability of the UK's public finances and on the effect of economic developments and fiscal policy on the UK's medium-term outlook.

Emma Congreve is a Senior Knowledge Exchange Fellow and Deputy Director at the Fraser of Allander Institute. Emma's work at the Institute is focussed on policy analysis, covering a wide range of areas of social and economic policy.  Emma is an experienced economist and has previously held roles as a senior economist at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and as an economic adviser within the Scottish Government.