Council tax rise on the cards?

East Dunbartonshire Council headquarters.
East Dunbartonshire Council headquarters.

Councillors are set to attend a crunch meeting this evening (Thursday) to discuss how to address a £14.4million funding black hole – including a possible council tax increase.

East Dunbartonshire Council chiefs say that the shortfall for 2017/18 has been caused by a combination of a five per cent reduction in the General Revenue Grant (GRG) allocated by the Scottish Government and a national reduction in the level of Non-Domestic rates.

Councillors have been given a report by the council’s finance chief which acknowledges that extra Scottish Government funding has been allocated to the council outwith the GRG, but not enough to counter the cuts.

The report explains: “Significant elements of this reported increase are either ring-fenced for specific purposes, assume a three per cent increase in council tax or are made available through health budgets.”

The Special Council Meeting has been organised to determine how to deal with the funding gap.

A council tax hike will be one of the options on the table at the meeting - with the council having Scottish Government approval to increase it by up to three per cent.

The full increase would equate to an added £1.8million going into council coffers over the next financial year.

Expected council tax reforms “adjusting the multipliers within council tax bandings” would raise a further estimated £4.6million.

Council Leader Rhondda Geekie confirmed the reasons for the meeting, held just a day before the council must confirm to the Scottish Government that it accepts the financial settlement, on Friday, January 13.

She said: “There is an overall reduction in our General Revenue Grant and whilst there is some additional funding specific to particular service areas, some of the additional funds proposed also require local decisions to be taken by this council.

“For example, whilst we are told we can now increase council tax by up to three per cent to increase our income, following the nine year freeze, we still need to agree as a council that we are prepared to do that before we can translate that additional funding into our budget plans.”

“Whilst we are disappointed at our reduced funding, meaning we have yet more challenging decisions to make to find significant further savings, there is more information that we need to consider.”