Scotland politics

West Dunbartonshire likely to raise council tax by 3% next year

Council Tax bill Image copyright PA

West Dunbartonshire has become the latest Scottish council to announce a planned council tax rise of 3% next year.

However, it has thrown out several suggested cuts in local services which had caused local outrage.

The authority said it would use its own cash reserves to make up for a fall in government funding.

The options thrown out by the administration included a proposal to stop collecting litter at weekends.

The council will set its budget in February. But a consultation on savings options identified by council officials will not go ahead.

The leader of the administration, Councillor Martin Rooney, told BBC Scotland he expected there would be a 3% rise in council tax.

Discussing the decision to drop unpopular proposals for cuts, he said: "We've generated reserves through sound financial management, and will use these to protect residents from the brunt of funding reductions.

"I don't want our communities and service users worrying over Christmas about whether the vital services they receive will be reduced and can confirm now that we will not be taking any of the savings options put forward."

Other ideas suggested by council officers included axing hot school dinners, cutting school milk and replacing lollipop wardens with volunteers.

Sources at the council said that officers were always asked to identify a range of options, in the full knowledge some of them would prove politically unacceptable and were unlikely to ever happen.

However, the fact these options were made public can sometimes cause concern or anxiety to residents.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Finance Secretary Derek Mackay delivered his draft budget to MSPs at Holyrood last week

Across Scotland, it is not unusual for council officials to highlight savings options which prove unpalatable in order to demonstrate the financial pressures they face or make less radical but unpopular choices seem less draconian.

The majority of councils have still to say whether they plan to increase council tax. The government is ending a national freeze which has kept the tax at 2007 levels.

At least eight other councils have indicated they are likely to propose raising the council tax including Edinburgh, Falkirk and Fife. South Lanarkshire intends to hold the freeze for another year and there is speculation more will follow.

However, many councils will receive less from the government for ongoing spending commitments in the coming financial year - the government argues more money will be available overall for local services across Scotland once other cash is included, including changes to council tax bands and money which will go straight to headteachers.

West Dunbartonshire argues it will receive £6.2m less in total from the Scottish and UK governments.

Mr Rooney said the Labour-run council had faced a predicted budget gap of around £2m which reserves will now close.

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