Western Isles Councillors set to vote on council tax increase

Councillors in the Western Isles are set to decide on a recommendation for a 4.79 per-cent hike in council tax for the coming year – the maximum permitted by the Scottish Government.

The move could see rates for Band D properties rise from £1,086.36 to £1,138.40 per year, or just over a pound a week.

A note on the proposal in the papers before councillors this week states: ‘In the context of the historic Council Tax freeze, the fact that the Comhairle has the lowest Council Tax in Scotland, the need to protect services and the safety net provided by the Council Tax Reduction Scheme it is recommended that the Comhairle exercise this flexibility. This would mean a band D increase of £1 per week’.

At the end of January, the Scottish Government announced revisions to their earlier proposed budget after reaching agreement with the Green Party.

For the Comhairle, the amended budget settlement saw an additional £691k of grant funding, and the report before councillors this week states that the revised settlement amounts to a revenue increase for the Comhairle of £295k – a 0.3 per-cent cash increase, but, according to the Comhairle’s report, that represents a real-terms decrease of 1.8 per-cent, or £1.7m, after inflation is taken into account.

The Government’s revised Settlement also included proposals to consult on the principles of a locally determined tourist tax, and the potential for a workplace parking levy, and the Comhairle’s report states that the tourist tax will be the subject of future reports, but also notes: ‘it is not recommended that the Comhairle use’ any new powers in terms of the workplace parking levy.

The budget papers also indicate that proposal for efficiencies and savings arising from the Comhairle’s service redesign process will progress as part of the new budget, and the report notes: ‘Service Redesign is at the heart of the Comhairle’s savings programme. An update on the redesign programme will be provided as part of the report on Transformation Change by the Director for Education, Skills and Children’s Services to the next Series of Meetings.

‘However, as part of the budget it is recommended that the Comhairle implement the proposals outlined in the concurrent Reports on Bus Services, Waste Services and Economic Development which together with the savings already approved for Housing, will contribute £2.5m of savings in 2019/20’.