MORAY AND HIGHLAND Councils look set to spearhead defiance of the Scottish Government’s continued freeze on council tax in the face of more crippling cuts in services.
As neighbouring Highland Councillors indicate that they are ready to face the wrath of Scottish ministers by imposing a council tax increase, a crunch meeting of the ruling administration at Moray Council is expected to reach the same decision.
Last month Moray’s convener Allan Wright revealed the true extent of the cuts the local authority is required to find as being £11.2million. That was made up of the £6.2million Moray already had to find from previous cuts, with an additional burden of £5million imposed as a result of the Scottish Government budget decision.
Now the Independent/Tory administration are reported to be considering imposing a council tax increase as a means of minimising the effects of cuts in services – knowing that doing so would see around 2.5% of any such increase being clawed back in the form of a penalty by the Scottish Government.
Councillor Wright said: “The possibility of unfreezing council tax is certainly something that will be discussed – we have to look at all the options that are open to us. The thrust of this meeting is about the scale of the challenge that faces us now as we try to balance the books.
“That is what we want to talk about, and one of the options we will look at is an increase in council tax.”
Any such move is likely to meet with opposition from the 11-strong SNP opposition group at Moray Council – but the administration group was strengthened on Monday by the decision of Heldon & Laich councillor Dennis Slater to join their ranks.
The administration may also count on the support of two Labour members on the local authority, with one, Councillor Sean Morton, already making his view clear that defiance of the Council Tax freeze was the only means of ensuring local services are retained.
Highland Council face a £50million funding gap and their budget leader Bill Fernie has said that if other local authorities were of the same mind then a “rebellion” against the tax freeze was a real possibility.