Scotland’s second largest local authority says the system for funding councils is “broken” as it presses ahead with plans to cut 2000 jobs.
The Labour-SNP coalition running Edinburgh Council says that long-term it will need to increase council tax to balance its books, but it has no plans to do so in the next financial year.
Around 700 staff have already agreed to leave and council leaders say they’re “cautiously optimistic” they’ll manage to reduce the workforce to 16,000 without resorting to compulsary redundancies.
The coalition is the only Labour-SNP administration in Scotland and needs to save £85m in 2015/16.
Its leader Labour councillor Andrew Burns said: “This is my 17th year as a councillor and my 17th budget and it’s by far the most challenging I’ve had to deal with in all that time. This will damage local services.
“The system for local government finance in Scotland is broken, beyond bout. The present council tax system must end.”
Councillor Burns, backed by his SNP deputy Sandy Howat, said councils should be given greater responsibility for raising their own funds.
He said: “At the moment council tax accounts for 18% of our budget and the rest comes from the block grant.
“That’s not sustainable. We need fiscal devolution to local authorities. The Scottish Government has got to let go a bit.”
The council leaders said they had considered raising council tax in the next financial year but decided against it. They have, however budgeted for a 3% increase in each of the three years after 2015/16.
Councillors Burns and Howat said at the very least they would want the flexibility to “decouple” council tax bands, allowing them to increase the rate for wealthier households without raising the tax on the less well off.
They said the cuts which will be voted on next week will not affect “the elderly, the disabled, the disadvantaged and the young”.
Proposals to reduce street crossing patrols, home care services and community centre staff have been dropped following a public consultation process.
Along with cutting the workforce, the council will sell off property and reduce its fleet of vehicles.