Fife Council leader goes online to talk about council tax rise

Council leader David Ross will be going online to discuss the possibility of a council tax rise.
Council leader David Ross will be going online to discuss the possibility of a council tax rise.

The debate about Fife Council’s finances is going on online with council leader David Ross taking part in a live Q&A session tomorrow (Friday, January 22).

The main focus will be on the council tax and whether there should be an increase to offset a portion of multi-million pound cuts required to balance the books.

The option of raising council tax is being considered.

Councillor David Ross

Fife Council is facing a bigger than expected deficit following Finance Secretary John Swinney’s budget announcement last month, with savings of £38m now required in 2016/17 instead of the previously anticipated £21m.

It’s also estimated that over the next three years, the council will have to find ways of closing a £90m budget gap.

So the possibility of a council tax rise is back on the table, with the administration’s draft budget suggesting an increase of 7.5 per cent.

Councillor Ross said: “Rising demand for services, increasing service costs and reductions in grant from the Scottish Government mean that the cost of maintaining the current level of local services is significantly higher than the funding the council receives.

“The unexpected and significant impact of the Scottish Government cuts means we are taking the following steps: Services are being asked to bring forward further savings proposals; savings planned for 2017/18 are being considered to see if they can be brought forward to this year; a number of one-off savings are being considered; ideas for transforming services are being examined and possibly brought forward; and the option of raising council tax is being considered, although this would mean that the Scottish Government would withhold further grant funding from the council.

“We want to have a discussion about the future and how we can shape and change what we do – not just to save money but to improve and invest in key local services.”

An increase of 7.5 per cent would generate around £12m, but by refusing to agree to a council tax freeze, Fife Council would have to forego £4.6m additional funding from the Scottish Government, taking the net gain for the council down to around £7m.

For the majority of households, the increase would cost under £2 per week. Annual bills would rise between £56 for those living in Band A properties and £168 for those in Band H.

To take part in the online Q&A with the council leader tomorrow afternoon, go to the council’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/fifecouncil.

Details of the administrations draft budget, and an online consultation asking Fifers some key questions on specific savings proposals, as well as taking soundings on the appetite for raising the council tax, at available in the ‘Let’s Talk Change’ section of the council’s website at www.fifedirect.org.uk/letstalkchange.

Final budget decisions will be taken at the full council meeting on Thursaday, February 11.