AN independent commission should be established to consider alternatives to the council tax, a Holyrood committee has suggested.

MSPs on the Local Government and Regeneration Committee want to see such a commission set up in time for a new way of councils raising funds to be identified ahead of the 2017 local authority elections.

The committee made the plea in a new report, which called for councils to be given increased powers, but also said authorities should consider devolving more power down to community.

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Convener Kevin Stewart said: "In order for communities to be truly empowered they must have the confidence that decisions are taken at the level where their needs are best understood.

"For this to happen, many more functions of local government must be devolved downward and there needs to be a greater willingness in local government to do this."

He added: "Finance is always a key factor and that is why we have suggested that after the referendum a cross-party commission should be established, with a view to a new system being identified before the next council elections in 2017."

The committee report pointed out that while political parties agreed on a need for financial reform, "no one party has yet brought for-ward ideas as to how this should be undertaken or what a replacement for council tax should be".

The MSPs added: "We make a clear recommendation this issue must be addressed at the earliest opportunity involving all political parties.

"Steps should be taken within the lifetime of this Parliament to initiate an agreed approach to facilitate meaningful debate on alternative approaches with the aim of having a new system identified in time for the next local government elections in 2017."