Council Budget: ‘tipping point’ warning as Fife looks at 5% Council Tax rise
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Councillor Ross appeared at Fife House on Friday to defend his party’s proposed 5% council tax hike, claiming it is the only practical and long-sighted solution in the face of a projected £11.5m budget shortfall.
“It’s been a death by a thousand cuts,” he said.
“The overall position is increased pressures on local authorities and services. As the figures show, we are not immune to inflation and the cost of living increases.”
The proposal sits alongside an alternative 3% tax hike from the SNP majority opposition. However, Cllr Ross slammed the alternative as a “shortsighted approach” that would “stack up problems for the future”.
“If you look at individual items the SNP mention, I think they are popular headlines rather than a serious approach to a balanced budget. There are hidden cuts in the SNP budget that we think are unnecessary. When you look at the difference between 3 and 5%, I think it’s about £27 a year. [This is] the investment we’re talking about to keep services going the rest of the year,” Cllr Ross stated.
Council statistics have projected a 59% increase in school annual electricity costs alone. Road material costs have soared more than 45%, and the cost to run an average bin lorry has risen by approximately £6,500 in the past year.
Cllr Ross said the administration “seriously considered” whether an tax hike was necessary and whether they could raise it by less, but the government funding package and inflation have given them no other choice.
“Every year we say we’re not getting enough and every year it’s true, but I think we’re coming to a tipping point over the next three years. Local authorities across Scotland are going to face really difficult challenges and will have to stop providing services.”
He added: “I think Fife is in a better position than a lot of other councils. We will get by, and a lot of that is down to the advice and management we get from our staff and we are prudent. However, it limits what we can do and what we would like to do.”
The Labour proposal would see £2m added to the Fife Council Hardship Fund in addition to investing £3.5m into reactive roadworks for potholes and patches.
The Labour budget would also dedicate more than £1.1m in additional funds to continue crucial services, including subsidising bus contracts to avoid service cuts, funding Cafe Inc, and funding to support Fife Coast and Countryside Trust.