Tax rise as council balances books

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Council tax in Bute is set to rise by three per cent from April after Argyll and Bute set its budget for next year last week.

And it means that the council will end up with a surplus to take forward to help bridge next year’s expected £3.6m funding gap.

The council faced a government funding cut of £6.3m, in the year ahead, hard on the heels of last year’s £8m cut.

But the increased council tax, efficiency savings and other council tax changes – including putting an end to the 10 per cent discount for second home owners – mean that the council will end up with a surplus of some £193,000.

The end of the nine-year long council tax freeze means that a band D property will face an increase of £35.34 a year, to £1,213.34.

Residents will also face a three per cent rise in fees and charges.The budget also sees further efficiency savings of £1.4 million.

Income will also be raised through the Scottish Government’s decision to increase the highest council tax bands, which will be worth £2.3 million, landlord penalties and an increase in households liable for council tax.

Rothesay will benefit from a special allocation of £200,000 for the stage two submission for the Rothesay Townscape Heritage Initiative which aims to revitalise the centre of the town.

And Argyll and Bute Health and Social Care Partnership of almost £56.5 million, including a one-off funding tranche of £2 million to support change and smooth a projected budget gap.

There was also £2 million for roads improvements and funding for the Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative.

£500k has been earmarked for footpath improvements and £119k will go to the Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets initiative

Councillor Dick Walsh, leader of Argyll and Bute Council, commented: “We have done all possible to make best use of the funding we have. This drive, to overcome challenge through transformation and change, means that we are in a better position than many other councils.

He called for the support of the local population: “However, the harsh facts of drastically reducing funding mean that we need the help of our communities to protect the services they use.”

Independent Bute councillor Robert MacIntyre was disappointed in the budget and said he was: “pessimistic about what is going to happen over the next few years.

“We always seem to be bottom of the pile.”

Cllr MacIntyre also expressed concern that the budget had not been fully debated, after council leaders spoke for more than two hours before the debate was opened.

Cllr Isobel Strong was disappointed in the budget too, ruing that her group’s ideas had been voted down.

She highlighted the weaking of area committees, commenting: “In a dispersed rural council, the local areas are key.”

And Cllr Strong pledged that if the SNP won control of the council later on in the year, they would: “undo some of the damage of this budget.”