Fife agrees to Council Tax freeze to ease lockdown hardships on families
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Councillors agreed to hold rates at their current levels at a full meeting of Fife Council this morning (Thursday).
Under the draft Scottish budget detailed in January, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes announced a £90 million fund that will give councils the equivalent of the income from a 3% rise in Council Tax if they choose to freeze rates for 2021/22.
Fife will receive around £5.8 million as part of that deal.
Councillor David Ross, council co-leader and Labour group leader, said the move to freeze Council Tax with no financial penalty was the best one to make for the people of Fife.
"There are huge pressures across Fife due to Covid and financial and other pressures," he said. "It seems right in this year we should try to mitigate some of these pressures by freezing Council Tax.
"It is the case that the Scottish Government will give additional funding to councils to allow them to freeze Council Tax.
"If we didn't freeze it then we wouldn't get that funding so there would be a significant loss in funding to the council."
Ross' fellow co-leader and SNP group leader David Alexander, seconding, said: "If we're going to freeze Council Tax this is the year to do it given the financial hardship faced by everyone due to the pandemic."
Despite the cash boost to council coffers for 2021/22, there are concerns that the Scottish Government may not "baseline" the money as part of future financial settlements.
If it is not taken into consideration as part of future budget calculations, Cllr Ross added, Fife may have to double planned Council Tax rises in the future – or make cuts.
In a bid to address those uncertainties, Liberal Democrat group leader, Tim Brett, successfully tabled a motion calling on the council to write to the Scottish Government to seek assurances over the stability of future council settlements.
He said: "We would all hope that this funding would continue next year but as both have said there would be significant problems for all councils if not."