Council poses tax rise question as possible alternative to frontline service budget cuts
PEOPLE could be willing to pay more council tax to protect frontline services according to a poll on Highland Council’s Facebook page.
Last Tuesday, the local authority held the first of a series of Facebook chats on budget issues. Margaret Davidson, council leader; Bill Fernie, chairman of the council’s resource committee and Derek Yule, director of finance, all took part in the event which focused on council tax.
A poll was included on the page which asked the question: ‘ The council has to save around six per cent across all services next year. Would you be willing to pay a bit more council tax to protect some services against cuts, such as education, care, roads, voluntary groups etc?’
There were 137 people who responded to the question to date. Sixty one people (44.5 per cent) said they would be willing to pay more council tax. Fifty three (38.6 per cent) said they wouldn’t and 23 (16.7 per cent) said they didn’t know and would need more information.
Many of the questions asked during the session related to where the council could make savings and many people expressed a concern for frontline services such as winter maintenance. There were also suggestions on other ways in which the council could raise additional funds.
Councillor Davidson commented on the chat: ‘Social media is a valuable tool for reaching out and engaging directly with people in our communities. We know that the vast majority of our 10,000 Facebook followers are based in the Highlands and this is an easy and convenient way for a great many people to take part in discussions about services.
‘We have committed to making budget decisions in an open, transparent and fair manner. It was very valuable to hear a varied range of opinions and ideas and what people really think and I really enjoyed chatting to people in this way.’
A council tax rise of five per cent would equate to just under £ 5 per month for properties on Band D. The council will be carrying out consultation on a range of budget proposals, including council tax, with the Citizens’ Panel in November and December.
If Highland Council broke the eight-year tax freeze, without a change in national policy, it would become the first local authority in Scotland to do so. Councillors in the Independent party, currently in a minority administration, previously called for a rise in council tax during last year’s budget cuts, when they were in opposition.