Local authority to consider U-turn on council tax freeze

Argyll and Bute Council previously agreed a hike of 10%, but may reverse the plans following talks with Scottish ministers.

A local authority which defied the Scottish Government to hike council tax may reverse the plans following talks with ministers.

Argyll and Bute Council was the first local authority in Scotland to vote down a council tax freeze, agreeing a hike of 10% in February.

Humza Yousaf had offered councils the equivalent funding of a 5% council tax rise if they kept the levy at its current rate, with £147m put forward to fund this.

However, Argyll and Bute Council said it would be forced to cut services if it did not raise tax, saying it faced a funding gap of more than £40m.

The local authority was later followed by Inverclyde Council, who decided to increase the levy by 8.2% for the upcoming financial year.

On Tuesday, Argyll and Bute Council revealed it may U-turn over plans to hike council tax following a series of discussions with the Scottish Government.

A special meeting will be held in April to consider the deal.

Council leader councillor Robin Currie said: “We can now look at freezing council tax for the coming year. We have been lobbying hard for equal support for Argyll and Bute which reflects the incredibly severe impact of unprecedented severe weather in October last year. We made a very strong case for that to the Scottish Government at a meeting we asked for in January this year.

“We have continued to press ministers ever since on a range of other issues. We are of course delighted that they have listened to our calls for severe weather support, and that they have now provided for Argyll and Bute that extra assistance that we are fighting for.”

The local authority said confirmation of additional funding of £6.26m means the council’s overall financial circumstances have improved, however this would be dependent on freezing council tax.

The funding includes £2.3m of support for the impact of the severe weather that Argyll and Bute faced in October 2023, confirmed on March 18 by the cabinet secretary for wellbeing economy, net zero and energy following discussions earlier in the year.

Argyll and Bute Council would also be eligible for an extra £1.1m in funding as part of the UK Government’s Spring Budget, with a pot of £62.7m made available to councils who freeze council tax.

Freezing council tax would also secure a share of the Scottish Government’s £147m funding, which would equate to £2.86m for Argyll and Bute.

Councillor Currie continued: “We see this as acknowledgement of a number of significant issues.

“It is recognition of the unique challenges that Argyll and Bute faces, which we fight for at every possible opportunity.

“It reinforces the important role of local government.

“And it supports what has been our priority all along – protecting vital local jobs and services.

“I will be recommending that we freeze council tax for this year at a special meeting of the council.”

It is understood that a proposal to offer Inverclyde residents a council tax rebate following the hike of 8.2% has been accepted by the Scottish Government, effectively meaning all councils in Scotland are likely to take part in the council tax freeze in some form.

Deputy first minister Shona Robison said: “I am pleased that Argyll & Bute and Inverclyde councils have signalled their intentions for council tax in 2024-25. 

“If the councils proceed with these decisions, council tax will effectively be frozen across the whole of Scotland, with households in 31 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities having a simple freeze in their council tax next year, and those in Inverclyde receiving a one-off rebate to reverse the impact of their 8.2% increase. This will directly benefit people in every part of Scotland during an ongoing cost of living crisis.”

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