Highland Council agrees three per cent rise in council tax
THE HIGHLAND Council agreed a three per cent increase in council tax as part of budget plans to plug a £20 million funding gap when it met in Inverness last Thursday.
A package of £10.689 million savings was agreed on top of £ 5.824 million savings agreed in previous budgets.
In addition, a 10 per cent discount on second homes has been scrapped.
From April 2017 the Scottish Government is changing the basis on which properties are assessed for council tax which will increase the charge for E to H banded homes.
Chairman of the community services committee, and Caol and Mallaig councillor, Allan Henderson told The Oban
Times: ‘This would have been a reasonable budget, after a succession of cuts, had it not been for the Scottish Government’s large increase on the higher banded houses.
‘Citizen panel surveys had clearly indicated the public was in favour of small rates increases, so the council agreed to a modest three per cent.
However the government has increased higher band houses separately with, for example, band H houses rising by more than 20 per cent, or approximately £ 500, which will also look like council rises.’
Highland Council also made a last minute U-turn on plans to cut NHS Highland funding before the budget meeting.
It has now agreed to give £1.174 million from emergency reserves to protect adult care.
Mr Henderson also said he was pleased budget leaders had agreed to protect road and winter maintenance budgets.
He said: ‘Representing a very rural area which is more susceptible to frost and icing, it is vital adequate resources are available for clearing and repairing winter damage.
Hopefully this budget will allow us to purchase, or at least rent, a second jet-patcher, which has more than proven itself across the Highland roads over the last tarring season.’
Budget leader Councillor Bill Fernie said: ‘This has been a very difficult budget as we have had to bridge a gap of £20 million between expenditure and funding.
‘We have done our best to reduce the savings where we can to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities and safeguard employment.’
A comparison of Council Tax Charges between 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 can be found at www.highland.gov.uk/downloads/download/525/council_tax_ rates