Coun­cil poses tax rise ques­tion as pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tive to front­line ser­vice bud­get cuts

The Oban Times - - News -

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.

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