Budget reveals council tax in Fife to rise by 3% from April

Fife Council leader, Councillor David Ross
Fife Council leader, Councillor David Ross

Fifers face a three per cent rise in council tax as the current administration aim to bridge a £20m gap in its budget.

David Ross, Fife Council leader, unveiled spending plans for 2017-20 ahead of next week’s budget – and he admitted that council services could be “unrecognisable” if cuts to the funding from the Scottish Government continue.

The new council tax levels from next April

The new council tax levels from next April

He said: “We’ve been making savings for many years, but the current year and next year have been significantly worse.”

“It’s predicted that these savings will go on, and if it does then the council and council services are going to be unrecognisable in a few years time.”

Mr Ross said that as a further cost-saving measure an estimated 279 council jobs could also go, though many of those would be through measures such as redeployment, voluntary redundancies or early retirement.

He said: “We think people actually value their local services.

“We will do our utmost to protect them as far as we can, but it will mean cuts and job losses over time.”

Mr Ross confirmed that council tax in the region will rise by three per cent from April across all bands,

“We’ve been allowed after a ten-year freeze to put council tax up by up to three per cent and we’re going to do that,” he said, “If we didn’t do it, it would mean us making an extra £4.6 million in cuts.

“There is our three per cent across the board increase, and on top of that the Scottish Government has increased the E- H banding, which will have a significant impact on people with bigger houses.

“We have no control over that, we have to implement it,” he said, adding that the current council tax system is “broken”.

“We think a new system needs to be devised,” he said.

“We recognise that not everyone in a big house is necessarily well off, particularly older people whose family have moved on, and they’re now being faced with huge increases in bills.

“If for the last ten years we could have raised the council tax by one per cent we wouldn’t have had this problem.”

The budget also includes plans for further investment with education one of its priorities.

Schools where 40 per cent or more of students qualify for free school meals currently receive funding for breakfast clubs. That will change to include schools with 30 per cent or more.

The council are also setting aside £50 million to invest in school buildings over the next five years. They are hoping for a further £100 million from the government to help cover costs of the project.

A new efficiencies programme, Enabling Change, will also be introduced which Mr Ross hopes will save around £35m over the next three years.

“It’s concerning that the Scottish Government obviously don’t see local services as an immediate priority,” he said.

“They’re protecting health, they’re protecting the police and supposedly protecting education, though I’d query that.

“All the cuts that those services are having to take are being passed on to local government.”