COUNCIL chiefs today called for an end to the council tax freeze, to deal with the impact of swingeing budget cuts across the country.
MSPs were told that the freedom to raise the level of council tax could help recoup cash, as hundreds of millions of pounds are slashed from budgets.
Local authority chiefs warned that the situation will only “get harder” in the years ahead with all services like teachers numbers, libraries and leisure centres across Scotland facing the axe.
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Holyrood’s local government committee was today taking evidence on the impact of looming budget cuts next year and asked where the cash would come from to fill the funding black holes.
Kevin Keenan, finance spokesman with local government body COSLA, said: “There are real cost pressures on local government and it is something that needs to be addressed.”
He added: “COSLA are starting to form the opinion that perhaps the council tax freeze can’t exist forever and we need to find some mechanism for local government receiving that little bit of extra money.”
Lindsay Freeland, Chief Executive of South Lanarkshire Council added: “In terms council tax and in terms of local income collection, that has been frozen for a number of years now.
“One possibility would be to let councils set their own rates again.”
He said the freedom to raise both the council tax and local business rates would “helpful for local authorities.”
Highland Council has already set out plans to save £64 million next year. Glasgow is facing a £28.9 million budget black hole next year and £100 million over the next three years. In West Lothian, £30.4 million needs to be saved and Fife has a budget gap of £77 million over the next three years.
Mr Freeland added: “I can tell you what it feels like in South Lanarkshire - it feels hard and it’s getting harder.”
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