UNISON'S report sets out a number of key ideas which authors say could reverse the cycle of cuts in our councils.

Here are six radical suggestions that could transform the fortunes of our local authorities:

Scrap council tax

UNISON is calling for council tax to be replaced by Land Value Tax (LVT), a proposal favoured by economists and deemed to be fairer to those living in low-value homes.

It is one of the most important forms of income for councils, and along with business rates, fees and charges, is used to pay for everything from bin collection and roads maintenance to libraries and leisure centres.

Experts have long criticised the current system, saying the inaccurate banding structures which use the value of property in 1991 to determine how much householders have to pay are slanted in favour of those in high-value homes. Those living in the lowest-value homes (band A) will pay around a third of what those in the highest value (band H) pay, although band H homes will be worth at least eight times those in band A. The system hasn’t been updated or re-evaluated to take into account the changes in house prices since 1991 either, prompting calls for it to be replaced.

LVT would see a yearly charge based on the value of the land property sits on – reflecting the current value of homes. Businesses would pay an annual tax based on the value of business premises, including the land, instead of business rates.

Report authors have called for a switch from the current council tax model to be seriously considered, but admit even getting the suggestions discussed "has been extraordinarily difficult, with well-researched and argued proposals unable to proceed from the reporting stage to due consideration by political parties and civic society".

They explained: "The introduction of a Land Value tax is extremely radical and could not be introduced suddenly. In planning its introduction consideration would be needed to be given to those impacted by it. For example, there are some elderly people who do not want to leave their homes, and who find themselves to be asset-rich, but with insufficient income ... A thorough analysis should be carried out and discussed widely before it is introduced.

"Nonetheless ... this is a goal which is worth pursuing."

Wipe out debt

Although one of the least likely ideas to be taken on board by Westminster, this idea could have the biggest effect on council finances.

Around £1bn a year – half of all council tax collected – is spent simply on paying interest on loans from banks and for PFI contracts, so clearing the debts could save local authorities billions. The cash saved could then be used investing in local services again.

Unison's report explains: "Trade unions should explore how local authority debts and PFI/PPP contracts can be taken over by the Treasury, saving local government many billions in interest charges each year and so releasing tax revenues for investment in local economies and communities.

"Around the millennium there was evidence that investors in the City would have been willing to lend long-term at reasonably low rates of interest. Those days are now well gone, and many local authorities are facing extremely expensive debt burdens, with ‘Lender Option, Borrower Option’ (LOBO) bank loans especially problematic.

"While finance institutions may be willing to lend the costs of borrowing from them do not offer a sustainable and reasonable source of funding."

Increasing tax for second homes, holiday homes and property owned by non-Scottish residents

The most recent Scottish Government budget includes putting up the amount of tax people pay on second homes and buy-to-lets by 1%, from 3 to 4%. These plans have been welcomed by economists in Unison's report, but authors say that this could go further, with careful analysis on the impact it could have on renters. They suggest: "Obviously, this rate could be increased further with modelling and analysis needed to ensure that rents are not increased to the detriment of tenants."

Taxes on property which is owned by people who do not live in Scotland, and therefore do not pay income tax here, should be extended to local authorities, allowing them to collect these fees.

The report authors explain: "Extending the tax base for local authorities to include all heritable property may be worth pursuing, by first checking that this would be legislatively competent ... This is an avenue worth exploring as it would target those who are able to benefit from property ownership in Scotland but not contribute according to their wealth."

Crack down on tax avoiders

More staff should be brought in to councils, government and agencies to help catch those exploiting loopholes in the system or simply not paying what they should in taxes.

According to HMRC, around £7.1bn is lost across the UK every year by tax evasion or tax avoidance. Unison's report argues that more staff need to be employed to track down people not paying their share, explaining: "In the short term, the Scottish Government, Cosla, local government and professional bodies can work together to identify where loopholes, avoidance and coverage has allowed some to escape making their fair contribution to the collection of tax revenues."

It adds: "Recruitment of additional staff to ensure that registration, regulation and collection of revenues is undertaken could be achieved cost-effectively so adding to total funds."

Bring services back under public ownership

Lothian Buses are the prime example, according to Unison's report, of how public transport can work for everyone if taken under council ownership. The firm, run by four councils, had a surplus of £6million last year and Edinburgh's transport has been ranked some of the best in the world. Outside London, bus use across the UK has fallen by more than 30% since 1986, with fares rising 35% above inflation, except in areas where local authorities have retained their bus services and run them themselves.

In England, councils have been banned from operating their own bus services, and in Scotland a change in legislation would be needed to allow it to happen in local authorities. The report states: "While it would take a change in legislation in Scotland for local authorities who did not manage to retain ownership to operate buses again, it would appear that this could be a viable source of revenue for local government.

"Furthermore, if buses were again operated by local authorities then tax payers would be relieved of the current high levels of subsidy paid to, often overseas state-owned, enterprises who currently run much of our transport infrastructure."

They also propose introducing a not-for-profit public energy firm, similar to that run by Nottingham City Council which launched in 2015 and has 168,000 customers. Last year the scheme had a surplus of £742,000 which will be reinvested on expansion and bring down costs.

Scrap tax relief schemes not fit for purpose

Despite no need to change legislation, amending or scrapping the small business bonus scheme (SBBS) has faced "political challenges" according to Unison's report. Authors are critical of politicians "adopting short-term soundbites rather than constructive dialogue" on how best to fix the problems. The SBBS costs the Scottish Government more than £250million a year, but is described as "deadweight" cash, with the economic benefits "exaggerated and unfounded". Non Domestic Rates have also been described as in need of review, and costs around £685m a year, according to Unison's report.

Finally, tax-free schemes for independent schools, charities and sports clubs should be made on a discretionary basis depending on what they contribute to the community around them, according to the report.

It explains: "Some of the particular tax reliefs, for example, independent schools and sports clubs, would be better considered locally where the health and social care partnerships and secondary education are also focused."