Councillor predicts Council Tax rise of 3%

Council Tax payers in the Scottish Borders and neighbouring local authorities can anticipate a 3% hike in their annual bill next month, a senior councillor has predicted.

By Paul Kelly
Thursday, 20th January 2022, 12:07 pm
Councillor Watson McAteer. Photo: Bill McBurnie.
Councillor Watson McAteer. Photo: Bill McBurnie.

The levy was frozen in the Borders last year as regions across Scotland braced themselves for the fallout from Covid-19.

That freeze was partly enabled by £90m of funding from the Scottish government to compensate councils adopting that approach.

It meant that Borderers living in a band D property faced a Council Tax bill of £1,253.91.

Sign up to our daily The Southern Reporter Today newsletter

Scottish Borders Council’s Conservative independent-led administration has launched a budget consultation for the next financial year of 2022/23 which is is currently ongoing.

Financial pressures are intense but when a Council Tax rate for the region is formally set next month, independent Councillor Watson McAteer, Hawick provost and elected representative for Hawick and Hermitage, doesn’t anticipate an inflation-busting rise in the Borders or the neighbouring authorities of Dumfries and Galloway, South Lanarkshire, Midlothian and East Lothian.

That’s despite a decade-long limit on increases imposed by the Scottish government being relaxed in the forthcoming year.

Mr McAteer said: “I can’t imagine that Council Tax will get much beyond three per cent. I imagine that there will be a fairly cautious approach despite the shackles being off and the local authorities being able to do what they want.

“That three per cent figure is one that has been quoted by a number of other authorities as well and I’m thinking we’ll be hovering around that mark.

“The Scottish government has removed the budget control that it has exercised for the last ten years, limiting authorities from increases above the rate they have set. They have taken that away, removing the shackles and allowing local authorities to set whatever rate they want.

“But to get us back to where we need to be we probably need to set a rate that is in double figures – and no authority is going to do that. That would be too painful for folk to bear.

“The three per cent figure has been bandied around because it aligns a bit to the rate of inflation.

“Council services are all struggling, there’s no doubt about that and we have to look very carefully at health and social care in particular. There’s a joint approach of looking after those that are immediately sick but also dealing with the demographics of a much older population in the Borders who are going to demand more services. That is going to cost money.”

Another reason for the financial caution could be the result of party political concerns, ahead of May’s Local Elections, Mr McAteer believes.

He added: “The timing is quite interesting and nobody is going to take the risk of causing concern to constituents by saying there is going to a huge increase.

“One of my concerns in the council budget is the suggestion around waste. It’s only a proposal at this stage but there is an indication that the cost for licences and permits to get rid of trade waste, that some of it could rise by 90 per cent, because the council has been slow to move on that over the years and now they want to recover their costs.

“I understand the council needs to recover its costs against businesses but it’s a cyclical issue because all the businesses can do is pass that on to the customer.”