Borders local authority bosses rule out council tax freeze unless Scottish Government agrees to help foot bill

Town hall bosses in the Borders are being urged to consider a council tax freeze or holiday to help people across the region cope with financial pressures caused by the coronavirus crisis.

By Paul Kelly
Wednesday, 22nd April 2020, 7:31 pm
Scottish Borders Council's Newtown headquarters.
Scottish Borders Council's Newtown headquarters.

With many Borderers currently furloughed and businesses closed, making ends meet is growing increasingly difficult for some as bills continue to drop through letterboxes.

London-based pressure group the TaxPayers’ Alliance is leading calls for local authorities such as Scottish Borders Council to help out hard-up residents.

The UK Government has set up a £500m hardship fund to support those left most in need by the current Covid-19 outbreak, cutting the bills of those eligible by £150 a year.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson is calling for a council tax freeze or holiday.

That doesn’t go far enough, though, according to the right-wing campaign group.

It insists the onus should be on councils to protect their communities by freezing the tax, set at £1,254 a year for band-D households in the Borders after councillors agreed to a 4.84% hike in February.

That’s a plea being backed by Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson.

He’s calling for either a year-long council tax freeze or three-month payment holiday, saying: “I see that some councils in the UK are not taking any council tax for this financial year from their hard-pressed constituents, and I am asking Scottish Borders Council to consider adopting a similar stance.

“We have many constituents facing real financial hardship, and some businesses I fear may never open again because of this worldwide pandemic.

“The council should consider not taking any council tax from our constituents for this financial year or to introduce some kind of a reduction in some way to try and help employees and employers get back on their feet after the biggest crisis in living memory.”

Ruling out such a move, a spokesperson for the council said: “We appreciate that this is a difficult time for many of our residents and that Covid-19 is having a significant impact on households.

“This crisis is also significantly impacting on the council’s income and therefore any council tax freeze would have to be a national-funded decision.

“To help us continue to deliver the essential services we provide at this time, it is important that people pay what they should be, maintaining their direct debit or the payment plan detailed on their bill.

“Residents that have been financially affected and are struggling to pay their council tax can access support and should see for more information or call 0300 100 1800.”