Coun­cil tax to rise three per cent

The Oban Times - - Front Page -

RES­I­DENTS of Ar­gyll and Bute face a three per cent rise in coun­cil tax and a hike in charges for fees and ser­vices.

Pa­pers re­leased to­day, Thurs­day, show Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil’s plan to fill a £6 mil­lion bud­get gap will see it put an ex­tra three per cent on coun­cil tax and in­crease charges for fees and ser­vices, if plans get the goa­head at a bud­get meet­ing next week.

How­ever, MSP Michael Rus­sell says the lo­cal author­ity has the high­est per capita sup­port of any main­land coun­cil and did not need to in­crease the coun­cil tax.

It is un­der­stood there are no plans for staff re­duc­tions or to make any large sav­ings from any ser­vice. Coun­cil in­sid­ers say it is a ‘safe bud­get’ prior to the coun­cil elec­tions in May.

One coun­cil­lor, who didn’t want to be named, said: ‘Bud­get meet­ings have been very re­laxed this year com­pared to the pre­vi­ous few be­cause we knew all along that we would need to raise the coun­cil tax.

‘But it will be back to busi­ness as usual next year when there will be mil­lions to save and that will mean mak­ing the dif­fi­cult choices we have avoided this year.’

Coun­cil­lor Dick Walsh, leader of Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil, said: ‘We are cur­rently work­ing through the de­tail pro­vided by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment af­ter changes to the lo­cal gov­ern­ment set­tle­ment were an­nounced on Fe­bru­ary 2.

‘We are as­sess­ing the im­pli­ca­tions of these for Ar­gyll and Bute, where there re­mains a £6 mil­lion plus fund­ing gap to deal with, ahead of Fe­bru­ary 23 when the coun­cil is due to set its bud­get.’

An Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil spokesper­son said: ‘Due to sig­nif­i­cant cuts made by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment this year, the head of strate­gic fi­nance has made sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions, in­clud­ing that the coun­cil may wish to end the coun­cil tax freeze and re­place with a three per cent in­crease, which could raise an ad­di­tional £1.239 mil­lion. The coun­cil will make the fi­nal de­ci­sion at its meet­ing on Thurs­day Fe­bru­ary 23.’

Mr Rus­sell re­futed the claim that sig­nif­i­cant cuts had been made to the lo­cal author­ity. He said: ‘The re­v­erse is true. The coun­cil has in­creased re­sources avail­able to it – up by 2.7 per cent.

‘Ar­gyll and Bute also has the high­est per capita sup­port of any main­land coun­cil.

‘The cur­rent in­com­pe­tent ad­min­is­tra­tion has failed to man­age the bud­get and it should ad­mit that it is re­spon­si­ble for the coun­cil’s very poor fi­nan­cial per­for­mance rather than blame any­one else.’

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