Council set to confirm three per cent council tax rise

Dick Walsh leader of Argyll and Bute Council

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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 go-ahead 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.’