Deputy FM accused of 'disrespect' as council tax talks end in no deal

Shona Robison said that while her meeting with Argyll and Bute Council went well, talks with Inverclyde 'were less productive'.

Shona Robison accused of ‘disrespect’ as tax talks with Inverclyde Council end in no deal Getty Images

A meeting between the deputy first minister and the leader of Inverclyde Council to come to an agreement on freezing council tax has failed to result in a deal.

Shona Robison and local authority leader Stephen McCabe both described the talks as “disappointing”.

The deputy FM – who is also the finance secretary – had sat down with the leaders of Inverclyde and Argyll and Bute councils.

The local authorities were the only ones in Scotland to reject the Scottish Government’s offer to freeze council tax.

Residents in Argyll and Bute will face a council tax hike of 10% while those in Inverclyde will see the levy increase by 8% this year.

Councillors in Inverclyde and Argyll and Bute voted to raise council tax.iStock

Robison said that while the meeting with Argyll and Bute went well, she was “disappointed” that talks with Inverclyde “were less productive”.

She said: “The position offered by the administration could leave Inverclyde residents uniquely disadvantaged during the cost of living crisis.

“The £2.9m available to Inverclyde Council from the Scottish Government would fully fund the 8.2% council tax rise councillors voted for.

“I will continue to press Inverclyde Council to accept the council tax freeze for the benefit of their residents.”

The Scottish Government offered local authorities £147m – the equivalent of a 5% council tax rise – and later an extra £62.7m.

But both would only be given to councils which froze tax.

Ahead of their meeting, McCabe had offered the finance secretary a “win-win compromise”.

He said he would use the funding from the Scottish Government to offer a council tax rebate to Inverclyde residents which would amount to a freeze.

The Labour council leader said: “If the Government is willing to make this funding available on a recurring basis, baselined into the local government settlement for 2024-25 and beyond, I would be prepared to recommend to the council that we use the funding for 2024-25 to provide Inverclyde households with a one-off rebate on their council tax charge for 2024-25, which would mean that Inverclyde residents would receive a freeze in their council tax for 2024-25 in line with the First Minister’s national policy priority.”

But McCabe said Robison rejected that offer during their meeting on Thursday.

Shona Robison has been accused of disrespecting Scottish councils.STV News

“I was pleased to have the opportunity to meet with the deputy first minister,” he said, “but I am deeply disappointed that she continues to disrespect the council’s democratic decision to raise Council Tax, which we believe is in the interests of the residents of Inverclyde.

“I am also disappointed that she has rejected the eminently reasonable compromise I put forward of a one-off council tax discount for 2024/25, which would effectively achieve a freeze for the next 12 months.

“I will now pursue the council’s share of the £62.7m of the funding the deputy first minister has now confirmed is available following the UK Spring Budget through COSLA.

“All councils should be entitled to a share of this funding irrespective of the decision they took on Council Tax.”

A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council said: “The deputy first minister and the leader and deputy leader of Argyll and Bute Council held positive discussions to discuss Argyll and Bute’s particular circumstances.

“This follows confirmation of £62.7m that was previously contingent on the outcome of the Spring Budget. Discussions will continue with the focus on resolving any outstanding issues.”

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