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SLC Council Tax Increase Could Offset Cuts


26/03/16


A three per cent rise in council tax each year since the start of the freeze in 2008 could have potentially covered all the cuts made by South Lanarkshire Council in that time.

£145m could have been raised in this way between 2008/09 and 2015/16.

During that same period, the council made £120.53m in savings.

However, those living in the lowest band of housing would have been forced to pay nearly £200 more every year on their council tax bill.


The SNP group have urged caution on the figures, saying they do not take into account money from the Scottish Government to cover the freeze.

In total, once the freeze ends next year, South Lanarkshire Council will have made £163.61m in cuts.


Since 2011, 1288 full time jobs have been scrapped as the authority attempted to balance its budgets.


Council leader, Eddie McAvoy, said the ability to raise council tax would have offset many of the cuts they have made.

He added: “We wouldn’t have plugged all the gaps, but what the figures demonstrate is that the policy of the UK and Scottish governments to reduce budgets over the years has had a major impact on services in communities.

“It would have been easier to manage if there had been no council tax freeze. Yes, people have made savings, but they have lost services at the same time.

“Many of the people in low bands receive council tax reductions because of low incomes, so really, the people who have benefited from the freeze are folk in the higher tax bands. They are working in good jobs and do not rely as much on council services.”


If council tax has risen by three per cent every year during the freeze, band D households, which all other bands are tied to, would be paying just under £1400 a year in council tax.

SNP group spokesperson, Councillor Sheena Wardhaugh, pointed to a report from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre which said the council tax freeze had actually been overfunded by central government.

She added: “This would seem to refute totally Eddie’s position. It has also saved money which is especially important for low-paid families facing the biggest challenges in difficult financial circumstances.

“Certainly, from the point of view of people in bands A, B and C, even up to D, the freeze has made a huge difference,

“We are in a good position in that a lot of the new houses are in higher bands, that is the reason we were able to increase our council tax take and take out some of the savings for next year. One thing the Scottish Government has been keen to avoid is the huge increases that took place in the years before the freeze.”


Earlier this month, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced the freeze would be lifted.

Local authorities will now be able to increase bands E to H by three per cent.

Councillor McAvoy said: “We will be looking at what savings we’ll need to make for 2017/18 from May and we’ll look at how we can offset these.

“These figures don’t include our share from the money the government set aside to cover the freeze, but that has never been tied to inflation, so, in my mind, it actually stopped in 2011.”