The leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, Ronnie Nicholson, has revealed that the current freeze in the council tax is costing the local authority more than £16 million a year in lost income.
Councillor Nicholson was speaking ahead of the publication of draft budgets by political groups on the council which are scheduled to be revealed on 11 December.
A combination of the council tax freeze and government cuts mean the draft budgets will have to propose savings of £32 million over the next three years, on top of the £40 million of savings already made over the past four years.
The Scottish Government has required all Scottish councils to ‘freeze’ council tax levels since 2007/8 and if councils do not meet this requirement then a financial penalty is imposed by the Government through a reduction in that council’s grant.
Mr Nicholson said, “The council tax freeze has basically given everyone in Dumfries and Galloway a 25% reduction in real terms in their council tax bills.
“However, the downside to this is the council is losing around £16.6 million of income per year. That’s £16.6 million more cuts per year that will have to be made in the budget to fund the council tax freeze.”
“No doubt some people will be supportive of the freeze and the fact that the council tax in Dumfries and Galloway is the lowest in mainland Scotland, especially at a time when their other household bills like electricity and gas are rising. Others will argue that paying an £40 extra per year since 2007 would have been better than the cuts that are now heading our way. There is also the issue of local democracy and the fact the Scottish Government in Edinburgh basically imposes the council tax level in Dumfries and Galloway and local elected councillors no longer have any say.
“Whatever side of the argument people are on, it is important that we are frank with the public and they know that the consequences of the freeze
Draft budgets will be pubished on 11 December then subject to a public consultation before being considered by councillors on 5 February.