Council tax freeze in doubt as '29 local authorities yet to meet deadline'

Local authorities face getting no subsidy cash if they put up council tax, the Scottish Government has warned.

Council tax freeze in doubt as ’29 local authorities yet to meet deadline’ STV News

Almost none of Scotland’s councils have told the Government whether they intend to accept a proposed council tax freeze – despite a deadline of Friday, it has been claimed.

Falkirk’s chief finance officer Amanda Templeman confirmed to members of Falkirk Council’s executive on Tuesday that it had not yet responded to the request from cabinet secretary for finance Shona Robison.

Falkirk is one of 29 Scottish councils still to say whether they will take up the offer, she said.

Ms Templeman told members that just three of 32 councils in Scotland are setting their council tax in advance of the deadline.

COSLA – the group that represents Scotland’s local authorities – continues to seek urgent talks with Robison, who is also the deputy first minister.

It has been pressing the Government to allow councils to increase council tax by up to 5%, without forfeiting £144m of funding earmarked for the freeze.

COSLA argues that the proposed council tax freeze is not fully funded because the core budget has also been cut.

There are also concerns that outstanding pay awards may not be funded by the Scottish Government, which COSLA said “will endanger local jobs and services”.

The local authority body was critical of the freeze when first announced, saying it will be hugely damaging to council finances, which are already under pressure.

It was also critical that the announcement was made by First Minister Humza Yousaf with no consultation of local authorities.

The Scottish Government insists that the £144m on offer does fully fund a council tax freeze, giving councils the equivalent of a 5%.

In a letter to councils, Robinson said: “The cost crisis and high inflation has affected all households, and many have felt the impact of that not only those on the very lowest income, therefore the Scottish Government believes this freeze will provide much needed stability and support.”

She also said: “Any council not agreeing to freeze their council tax will not receive their share of this funding.”

The SNP leader of Falkirk Council Cecil Meiklejohn said that Falkirk, like many other local authorities, “was not in a position to give an indication” of its intentions.

The debate was sparked by Labour councillor Euan Stainbank, who asked if Falkirk Council intended to make its intentions known to the Scottish Government by the Friday deadline.

Speaking after the meeting, councillor Stainbank said: “Falkirk Council’s budget meeting will not be held until the February 28 where the budget will be decided by Falkirk’s democratically elected councillors and we cannot give an answer that will pre-empt the outcome of that meeting.

“The Scottish Government budget yet again includes a substantial cut in funding to Falkirk Council, meaning the funding available for their council tax freeze will fall far below 5%.

“The Scottish Government’s mistimed and undemocratic ultimatum on their unfunded council tax freeze must be taken off the table.”

Independent councillor Robert Spears said he had heard rumours that the administration could be proposing an increase in council tax of 10% and asked if there was any truth in these.

However, Cllr Meiklejohn said the administration “at this stage had made no decision with regard to what they would be doing” and no figures have been discussed within the SNP group.

She added: “I think we need to be very careful about spreading rumours as there has been nothing put forward by the administration as yet.

“We are still in our budget negotiations and deliberations.”

STV News is now on WhatsApp

Get all the latest news from around the country

Follow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp

Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country

WhatsApp channel QR Code