Council tax rise may avert cuts

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By a local government reporter

The Scottish government’s budget allocation may mean a council tax rise.

Argyll and Bute Council leader Aileen Morton said there are no easy options left to fill the budget gap faced by the council, which was discussed at the recent policy and resources committee meeting.

Argyll and Bute has received a total settlement from Holyrood of £217.8million.

This would be boosted to £219.4m if the authority agreees a council tax increase at its budget meeting in February.

Cuts already proposed by the council include the removal of school ‘lollipop’ crossing patrols, the road safety unit, and a reduction in staff in adult and youth learning services.

Councillor Morton said: ‘All councils across Scotland have faced substantial funding cuts over recent years, and as the Scottish Government provide 80 per cent of our funding these cuts then mean local services suffer.

‘The funding announcement by the Scottish government is substantially worse than we expected, considering the UK Budget announcement, and leaves the council facing the need to identify at least another £1million of further savings.

‘Having seen our funding cut by 11.4 per cent in the previous five years, there are no easy options left to fill the budget gap.

‘We now face a further cut of 2.5 per cent this year.

‘Much of our budget is effectively ring-fenced by Scottish government requirements which means other services, such as roads, have taken much more swingeing cuts.’

Unveiling the allocation to each Scottish council, Holyrood finance secretary Derek Mackay said: ‘The Scottish government has continued to ensure that our partners in local government receive a fair funding settlement despite further cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK Government.

‘After removing the health uplift the Scottish government fiscal resource block grant funding goes down by £340 million, or 1.3 per cent in real terms, for 2019-20.

‘Despite that reduction, we have still provided a 2 per cent real terms uplift in the total local government settlement for 2019-20.’