10th April 2020
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Council tax hike a political choice, member argues

A councillor has unsuccessfully railed against a council tax hike of 4.84 per cent, despite telling members the rise was a political choice and not a necessity.

Shetland Central councillor Ian Scott’s impassioned plea to ignore official advice to increase council tax by the maximum amount and instead dip into the local authority’s sizeable reserves fell on deaf ears.

“If we vote for these increases we don’t do it because we have to, we do it because we choose to”, he said.

Mr Scott’s comments came as councillors considered a report recommending a 4.84 per cent council tax increase and an increase to housing rents and charges.

The authority was facing a funding gap in excess of £12 million, based on the Scottish government’s recent draft budget, finance chief Jamie Manson told the chamber on Wednesday morning.

By increasing council tax by 4.84 per cent the authority could generate an additional £569,000, members heard.

The report stated: “This has the effect of reducing the funding gap to £11.7 million.”

Political leader Steven Coutts said that he believed there was “no other option but to go with the recommendations in the report”, adding that the council was stuck “between a rock and a hard place”.

But Mr Scott said that there was a safety net available to the council in the form of reserves in excess of £350 million.

“With half a million [from the reserves] we can mitigate this increase”, he said.

Shetland Islands Council’s huge reserves were a “luxury” most other local authorities could not boast, he said.

“How many billions do we need to have in our reserve fund before we can spend more?” Mr Scott asked.

The councillor tabled an amendment calling for an increase of 1.8 per cent instead (in line with the consumer price index) but he found no seconder.

The 4.84 per cent hike passed without any further objection and will be collected at the new rate from 1st April.

For those in council tax D the new rate represents an annual increase of £55.69.

About Keegan Murray

Reporter for The Shetland Times. Interested in politics, literature and music. Born and bred Shetlander. Long suffering Newcastle United supporter.

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One comment

  1. Alice Simpson

    Normally, I would find this a completely reasonable approach to help maintain and deliver the services we currently enjoy. Before the last few years, we enjoyed a very long period of no council tax increases…

    however…

    This is the same council that has absolutely no appetite for making services changes that could potentially deliver similar service levels, but at a more efficient cost level. I’m quickly getting the impression that most sleep at night knowing they are delivering a leading ‘cost per head’ whatever the case, and can simply wave that figure around when questioned.

    As an example, when asked to investigate the possibility of applying to host the next Tall Ships, a business case resulted in this not being the option that delivered best value for Shetland, with another option presenting best value. Decision? “lets do both!”.

    At £1.4m for one weekends event (that was rained off last time), we could enjoy over two and a half years of no increases in Council Tax at 4.84%, if members had decided not to pursue a pet project that wasn’t recommended in the first place.

    Reply

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