THE “surprise” council tax freeze announcement could cause chaos in Dumfries and Galloway Council’s budgeting plans, a councillor warned this week.
Senior Conservatives Group Councillor Ivor Hyslop, who represents the Lochar ward, was shocked to hear First Minister Humza Yousaf announce a freeze on council tax next year.
Dumfries and Galloway Council not only rubber-stamped a six per cent council tax rise for 2023-24 in March this year, but had also made firm financial plans to reduce a budget deficit of around £40m over the next three years.
A council tax freeze next year now removes a primary source of additional income, and will force council finance chiefs to rethink future budgeting plans.
Councillor Hyslop said: “The biggest issue is the fact that we’ve just signed off the Verity House Agreement between COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) and the Scottish Government to do with partnership working – and now we’ve got the government coming out and making such a big announcement that’s never been discussed with local government.
“When we put our budget forward, it was with a framework of a three-year plan, and looking ahead to five years as well. But this was based on additional income from council tax levied to the public.
“There is now uncertainty over what can be delivered. Does the Scottish Government intend on funding us during this council tax freeze, or will there be any additional financial support?
“There will now be serious pressures about how the council manages its programme over the next three or four years after this surprise council tax freeze announcement.”
First Minister Humza Yousaf said he would halt plans to allow Scotland’s 32 councils to raise council tax next year.
“We know that people are filled with dread when the bills are going up and up,” he said. “We can’t stop all the bills rising – but where we can act, we should.”
Scotland’s local authority collective COSLA has since stated that there is “absolutely no agreement” on Humza Yousaf’s announcement to freeze council tax next year.
A statement issued by COSLA last week reads: “The announcement of a council tax freeze was made completely without reference to local government and there is no agreement to freeze council tax next year, the decision to freeze council tax is one which can only be made by councils.
“Our cross-party group leaders held an emergency meeting first thing this morning on the back of the announcement and there is real anger at the way this has been handled and what it puts at risk.”