Council Tax rise 'necessary' says DIGG

Cllr Martin Ford says a Council Tax increase is necessary next year.
Cllr Martin Ford says a Council Tax increase is necessary next year.

Aberdeenshire's Democratic Independent and Green Group (DIGG) councillors – Paul Johnston and Martin Ford – have made clear their belief that Aberdeenshire Council needs to do all it can to protect vital public services.

That includes raising additional income by putting up the Council Tax next year by three per cent.

The decision on Aberdeenshire Council's 2017/18 revenue budget will be made against a background of rising demand for key Council services, in particular adult social care and an increasing school pupil population – with the inevitable attendant budget pressures.

The Council Tax rate has not increased since 2007, a freeze now lasting nine years.

A very preliminary analysis of the Scottish Government's budget statement last Thursday (15 December) suggests the cut in Government funding to Aberdeenshire Council next year is in line with expectations or possibly slightly more than anticipated. A full analysis of the overall effect on Aberdeenshire Council of the various measures announced by the Scottish Government will be available early in January.

Cllr Martin Ford said: "In the context of a cut in Aberdeenshire Council's grant funding from the Scottish Government, rising demand for Council services and a nine-year freeze in the Council Tax, a Council Tax increase is necessary next year."

The DIGG draft budget proposals for Aberdeenshire Council (published in November) included a three per cent rise in the Council Tax as one measure to help close the forecast funding gap in 2017/18.

Cllr Paul Johnston said: "Given inflation, the freeze in the Council Tax was a real-terms tax cut. And it's lasted now for nine years. Clearly services have to be paid for, so the freeze can't just go on.

"For the DIGG, protecting essential services is the priority. For every one per cent increase in the Council Tax, the Council can avoid cutting a million pounds from its spending on services."

For the benchmark Band D property, the current Council Tax in Aberdeenshire is £1,141.00. So a one per cent increase is an additional £11.41 on the annual Council Tax bill (or just under 22p per week, just over 3p per day).

A three per cent rise next year is just 66p extra per week for a Band D property.

Even if that increase is made, spread over the ten years 2008 to 2017, the Council Tax will have risen by only £3.42 per year in that decade.

"After many years of cuts, the priority has to be protecting the services people need," said Cllr Martin Ford. "The Council must do everything in its power to maintain the range of essential services it provides for residents."