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Council tax to be frozen

By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Council tax to be frozen

A COUNCIL tax freeze in Dumfries and Galloway is guaranteed for the year ahead after all political groups agreed to follow a Scottish Government plea not to increase charges.

However, the Conservatives, Labour and SNP groups have all stated their desires for the originally-intended council tax rise of 6.5 percent to be implemented in the following two years.

And the owners of second homes will still be hit in the pocket because a 100 per cent increase on council tax for these properties is set to be implemented from April onwards.

Councillors from each political group have been doing their sums alongside finance officers and this week submitted their finalised budget proposals ahead of Tuesday’s annual budget setting meeting.

It has been no easy task trying to maintain services and balance the books because the local authority is facing a £10.4m funding gap for 2024/25 – after savings of £1.4m were already identified.

This is due to yet another disappointing financial settlement from the Scottish Government, and led to council leader Gail Macgregor writing a letter of complaint to both Holyrood and Westminster.

There are four key areas where the Conservatives, Labour, and SNP agree on their budget proposals:

* Freezing council tax this year.

* The 100 percent council tax increase on second homes – which will generate additional income of £1.66m per year.

* Repaying school construction debts over a longer period – to generate £1.25m per year.

* Allocation of £1.15m to the Integrated Joint Board for the continuation of important community services, such as Care and Repair, and the Food Train.

Where the political groups differ is how they propose to allocate the rest of the budget for 2024/25, and what specific savings options they opt for.

The cost of living crisis is a top priority all groups have discussed with officers, and significant amounts of cash will be handed out to support various projects that are aimed at increasing income and reducing expenditure for people.

The Labour Group intends on spending the biggest chunk on the cost of living crisis, directing £1.887m towards it, while the SNP is close behind with £1.827m earmarked, and the Conservatives administration have calculated spending £1.742m as their slice.

A special budget meeting will take place on Tuesday morning in the council headquarters where all proposals will be tabled and councillors will vote for which plan should be implemented for 2024/25.


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