Edinburgh could face 4.79 per cent council tax rise

CAPITAL residents could face a council tax increase of nearly five per cent next year as the city tries to cope with another squeeze on its spending.

Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 7:00 am
The council will go out to consultation with budget proposals in December.
The council will go out to consultation with budget proposals in December.

Councillors within the ruling SNP-Labour coalition are pressing for a council tax rise higher than last year’s three per cent in a bid to limit cuts to services.

It is understood the Labour group will back a move to include the idea of a 4.79 per cent rise - the new maximum allowed by the Scottish Government - in the public consultation which the council is due to carry out in December as part of the budget process.

Some in the SNP group are also said to support the idea, but others are reluctant because of a commitment in the coalition agreement to keep increases at three per cent or below.

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A senior Labour source said: “We’re keen to go for the full 4.79 per cent as a way of minimising the affect of cuts as much as we can.”

And one Labour backbench councillor, Scott Arthur, has said on social media: “Now is the time to consult the public on lifting Edinburgh’s three per cent council tax cap, and consider using the Scot Gov’s 4.79 per cent limit. Raising the council tax by 4.79 per cent would generate £15m-£20m of revenue, and help protect schools, libraries and homeless people from these Scot Gov cuts.”

Last year, the minority SNP government at Holyrood raised the council tax cap from three per cent to 4.79 per cent to allow for inflation after budget talks with the Greens.

But Edinburgh stuck to its plans for a three per cent increase, while several other councils opted for the higher figure.

Labour group leader Cammy Day said: “The budget group are working every week with officers to try to come up with the best proposals we can to balance our budget and we will be considering every option to reduce the impact on frontline services.

“We have argued for more powers from the Scottish Government and if we have them we should look to use them for the benefit of the city.”

The Evening News revealed yesterday that Cllr Day, in his role as acting council leader, had written to Finance Secretary Derek Mackay, warning that vital services were at risk if the city was forced to find more savings.

SNP finance convener Alasdair Rankin said it was early days in the budget process and no decisions had been made.

“The general feeling in my group is we want to have firmer figures from the Scottish Government on Edinburgh’s grant. We are doing our best to make the government aware of the financial pressures we face.”