Fife Council: 'no significant cuts' and freeze on Council Tax in budget plans

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Fife Council’s leadership is grudgingly set to agree with Holyrood’s national Council Tax freeze next week – and it has said no major cuts to services are on the immediate horizon.

The local authority’s minority Labour administration published its 2024/25 budget proposals this week, and although tough times lie ahead, there are “no significant cuts” being proposed at the moment.

Council Leader David Ross has vocally opposed the freeze since it was announced by First Minister Humza Yousaf in October, but his minority administration at Fife House is now prepared to accept it - keeping Council Tax rates where they are for another year.

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“We are faced with a choice of freezing Council Tax this coming year and receiving our share of the funding withheld by the Scottish Government, or raising Council Tax by at least 4.9% before we receive any financial benefit above the £9.3 million,” the administration’s budget proposals explained.

Councillors will meet at Fife House next week to discuss the budget plans (Pic: Fife Free Press)Councillors will meet at Fife House next week to discuss the budget plans (Pic: Fife Free Press)
Councillors will meet at Fife House next week to discuss the budget plans (Pic: Fife Free Press)

“Faced with these choices, we are proposing to agree to a freeze for 2024-25 and ask the Scottish Government to release the £9.3m they are threatening to withhold from our grant.”

The administration’s intentions were unveiled on Thursday morning after the 2024/25 budget proposals were published in advance of next week’s budget setting session. The language makes apparent that Labour leaders are still unhappy with the council tax freeze and the way it was announced.

The administration said that Council Tax is “the main source of funding within the Council’s own control,” and claim the tax freeze was imposed “without any consultation with local government.”

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“There are far better ways of targeting financial support to those who need it most,” its proposals stated.

Cllr Ross also confirmed that the council “should be able to avoid making any significant cuts to services in the coming year” and he added: “This is in large part due to the sustained efforts of our finance staff and the directorate and service managers to manage the council’s resources prudently and under huge pressure.”

There have also been a number of changes and decisions in recent months that made it a little easier to balance the books.

Fife seems to be in as good a position as any this year, but the administration warned that tough times likely lay ahead. In future, cuts may be necessary.

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“Although we will be able to produce a balanced budget, we will continue to face major financial challenges in the medium and longer term,” his report warned. “Service budgets in the present year are once again overspent and the Council is in surplus only because of favourable movements in loan charges and other corporate items that cannot be relied on in the longer term.”

Councillors will gather in the Fife House council chambers next Thursday to set the budget in stone.