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10% Council Tax increase for Argyll and Bute

Council goes against Scottish Government tax freeze

By Gordon Neish
10% Council Tax increase for Argyll and Bute

Argyll and Bute Council set its budget today (Thursday) and, in a crucial decision impacting households across the region, a ten per cent increase in council tax has been confirmed following a tight vote in favour of the ruling group’s budget motion.

The Argyll, Lomond and Islands Group (TALIG), comprising Conservative, Liberal Democrat, and some independent councillors, successfully pushed for the increase, despite a recommendation from an authority officer for a more modest rise of just over six per cent for the 2024/25 budget.

The Strategic Opposition Partnership, consisting of SNP, Labour, and certain independent councillors, proposed an amendment to freeze council tax, aligning with First Minister Humza Yousaf’s pledge at the SNP’s national conference. However, the TALIG’s motion prevailed during the full council meeting.

Council leader Robin Currie emphasised the critical nature of the decision, citing the necessity of the ten per cent increase to address a substantial £30M deficit in the capital investment program. Currie underscored the importance of this program in maintaining infrastructure, schools, and job opportunities within the region.

In contrast, SNP councillor Jim Lynch, leader of the Strategic Opposition Group, stressed the challenges faced by residents amid rising costs of fuel, electricity, and inflation. Lynch advocated for a council tax freeze to alleviate financial pressures on households and provide stability during uncertain times.

Following a roll call vote, the TALIG budget motion secured victory with 18 votes in favour to 16 against.

The decision, the council says, reflects a balancing act between addressing financial shortfalls and alleviating the burden on residents, showcasing the complexities inherent in local governance and budgetary decisions.

Councillor Robin Currie, Leader of Argyll and Bute Council said: “In all the years I’ve been a councillor, this has been the most difficult budget to set. We considered every option to save the council services and local jobs that communities need. We campaigned for fair council funding for Argyll and Bute with CoSLA. We identified nearly £4M more savings without affecting services or jobs. We took steps to raise income such as doubling council tax on second homes. But Argyll and Bute still faced a multi-million pound budget gap that threatened the council services people use every day.

“Our focus has to remain firmly on supporting people now, and on building the sustainable future we all want for Argyll and Bute. That focus cannot slip away in the face of severe and on-going budget gaps.

“This service-saving budget is only possible with an increase in council tax. Council tax funds council services. Increasing council tax saves services.

“It was a difficult decision to take but it is the responsible one. Council tax reduction benefits are there to help those in greatest need. And communities across the area can continue to rely on the council services and support they need.”

During the meeting councillors were told that Deputy First Minister Shona Robison had written to councils on Wednesday offering them an extra £62.7m in funding if they voted to implement the freeze.

Mr Currie said it was “heartening” that the Scottish Government had offered extra funding “at the eleventh hour” but a lack of clarity remained.

He added: “It is impossible for it to make any real difference to budgets at this stage.

“Regardless of the additional money we are still in a very difficult position but we are not alone.

“Claims about a fully-funded freeze are no more than just that.”

More budget details, and reaction, in Next Friday’s print editions.

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