Fears Council Tax freeze means service cuts as Falkirk Council will now struggle to 'balance the books'

The First Minister’s announcement Council Tax will be frozen may have placed even more financial hardship on Falkirk Council and lead to more cuts to services.
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Back in September it was stated the council would be looking to take drastic action to increase council tax by over five per cent in order to help it bridge a five-year £64.4 million budget gap and prevent more cuts to vital public services.

At the time Falkirk Council members heard from officers if the council tax rise is any less than five per cent, more services will have to be cut or fees and charges increased.

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In a nutshell they were told Council Tax would have to rise substantially if Falkirk Council is to survive financially.

Falkirk Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn says its too early to ascertain the impact of the Council Tax freeze
(Piicture: Submitted)Falkirk Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn says its too early to ascertain the impact of the Council Tax freeze
(Piicture: Submitted)
Falkirk Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn says its too early to ascertain the impact of the Council Tax freeze (Piicture: Submitted)

Now that option has been taken away from them after First Minister Humza Yousaf announced the Council Tax freeze on Tuesday – throwing out plans featured in a consultation that would have seen Council Tax rates increased by between 7.5 per cent and 22.5 per cent on the highest band properties.

The impact of the freeze is now being looked at by council officers.

Falkirk Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: “It’s too early to say the impact a Council Tax freeze could have on our budgets moving forward as there simply isn’t enough information right now.

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"We will be looking closely at this issue as more information becomes available in order to gauge the potential impact on what is a very challenging financial situation.”

Mr Yousaf stated he was freezing Council Tax in the next financial year to support people struggling with the effects of high inflation, adding the move would benefit every Council Tax payer in Scotland at a time when rising prices are putting significant strain on household finances.

He also said the Scottish Government would fully fund the freeze to ensure councils can maintain services.

Mr Yousaf said: ““Of course, the public sector across the UK is facing budget pressures as a result of UK Government austerity, and we know councils are facing financial challenges themselves.

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"That’s why the Scottish Government will be fully funding this freeze to ensure they can continue providing the services on which we all rely. This is on top of the real-terms increase to local government revenue funding this financial year.”

Union bosses stated the plans to freeze council tax were “electioneering at its worst” and shared fears about funding for local authorities.

Dave Moxham, STUC deputy general secretary, said: “What the First Minister didn’t say is we pay on average about £500 less per person up north than they do down south.

“This is something the Scottish Government has developed over a decade, and the effect of that has been an incredible squeeze on local government services, and that has to stop.

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“This announcement doesn’t help. It really is a bad policy at a bad time.”

The Scottish Green Party voiced concerns about the freeze, stating it was concerned about the effect it would have on “already-strained” frontline public services if it is not properly funded.

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