A LABOUR council leader has written to Humza Yousaf to “question the logic” of the council tax freeze, warning it could result in cuts to services.

Stephen McCabe, leader of Inverclyde Council, has insisted the decision by the Scottish Government to not allow local authorities to raise council tax next year “flew in the face” of the Verity House Agreement (VHA) signed with local government organisation Cosla earlier this year.

The VHA was signed in a bid to “reset the relationship” between the Scottish Government and local authorities. Yousaf said he was committed to building a “stronger relationship with local government, with mutual trust and respect at its core”.

He insisted councils should have the freedom to set their own rates, especially as it is the main income-raising tool at their disposal.

But the Scottish Government’s commitment to the scheme has been questioned since the SNP made a last minute call to freeze council tax at their conference last month.

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The move prompted a major backlash from Cosla which said it had not been consulted.

McCabe said council tax in Inverclyde raises approximately 10 times more income than all the fees and charges combined as he expressed his concerns to Yousaf.

He said in his letter: “The elected members of Inverclyde Council wish me to raise our own significant concerns around both the announcement and the implications it has for the council’s budget and the residents of Inverclyde.

“Following the signing of the Verity House Agreement by the Scottish Government and Cosla, it had been anticipated that unilateral announcements such as the one you made were a thing of the past and that, as indicated in the Verity House Agreement, matters would be done in the spirit of partnership with a 'local by default, national by agreement' ethos. 

We believe your announcement flew in the face of this ethos and brings into question your Government’s commitment to the rest of the agreement.

“We believe that locally elected councillors should have the freedom to balance local tax-raising decisions and levels of local service delivery. In the case of Inverclyde Council, it raises approximately 10 times more income than all the fees and charges combined.

“Therefore, by removing our ability to raise council tax the only option for the council to balance its budget in a sustainable manner is further cuts to council services.”

McCabe has called on the FM to ensure any freeze is fully funded by the Scottish Government, which it has previously pledged to do.

The freeze also caused tensions between the SNP and the Scottish Greens, who said they were not consulted.

A motion passed at the Scottish Green party conference last month criticised the way the SNP handled the announcement of the policy.

The motion said the move broke the Bute House Agreement’s commitment to "consultation and collaboration with the Green Group throughout the development and scrutiny of all stages of the annual budget process".

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The council tax freeze next year will benefit every council tax-payer in Scotland at a time when rising prices are putting significant strain on household finances.

“The total funding for the freeze will be discussed and agreed in partnership with local government and will form part of broader funding decisions made in the 2024-25 Scottish Budget.

“The Scottish Government remains wholly committed to the Verity House Agreement and is continuing to work with Cosla on a new fiscal framework for local authorities.”