Online city poll backs increase in council tax

The public consultation showed support for a council tax increase. Picture: Jon Savage

The public consultation showed support for a council tax increase. Picture: Jon Savage

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More than 60 per cent of city residents who responded to a public consultation on council budget proposals backed an increase in council tax to fund services.

A new report, released by the council’s finance and resources committee, highlighted the responses of 747 people to a swathe of proposed cuts.

Through a variety of methods – including the online budget planner, e-mail and telephone – respondents gave their views on a selection of topics, including planned changes to council tax, redundancy policy and renewable energy regeneration. Of the 359 individuals who completed the online budget planner, 62 per cent were in favour of “increasing council tax” to pay for services.

This was compared with only nine per cent who wanted to see a reduction.

Almost a quarter of respondents wanted to increase Band D council tax by around £100, while 39 per cent opted for the more “modest” £50 increase.

The city council’s latest proposed cuts come in a bid to plug a £126 million deficit in its budget.

Over the past few days, the News has revealed some of the council’s latest plans, which include scrapping lunchtime lollipop patrols and reducing recycling in a move to save millions.

The council is now in week five of its budget engagement process, which will continue until mid-December.

The latest report revealed that 29 per cent of respondents on the online budget planner backed the council’s proposed parking increases in the draft budget.

The move has been criticised by Lothian Conservative MSP Cameron Buchanan, who said increasing parking charges, “would only put people off coming to the city”.

However, 43 per cent of respondents were reported to be in favour of increases for residents and visitors, while 21 per cent wanted all parking tarriffs held at their current level.

Only six per cent of respondents favoured a decrease in parking charges.

The report states: “Local government resources face unprecedented pressures due to demographic and expectation driven increases in demand, set against a background of public sector budget cuts. The report provides interim findings to the finance and resources committee based on all responses received five weeks into the campaign.”

The report highlighted that the biggest public participation on the issues placed before them on the council’s dialogue page – where 87 individual comments and 113 ratings were made – included introducing a tourist tax, closing Castlebrae High School and applying additional fees for installation permits for private contractors.

Tourist tax rated five out of five, with a total of 22 votes and comments, as a positive.

It was generally felt that asking tourists to pay an ­additional £2 per room, per night was both “reasonable and desirable”. It was also noted that such a tax was already common in other cities around the world.

According to the report, this year’s 747 responses in week five of the consultation process compares with last year’s 1321 responses by all methods.

The report stated that the: “The 2015 response equates to around 57 per cent of the 2014 response.”

courtney.cameron@edinburghnews.com