A LABOUR council leader has been called out for being “hypocritical” on Council Tax after a picture emerged of him campaigning against increases in a by-election while he has since complained about the freeze.

Stephen McCabe, leader of Inverclyde Council, was pictured campaigning against Council Tax hikes with fellow councillor and Labour’s General Election candidate for Inverclyde - Martin McCluskey - in Rutherglen last year.

But since then, McCabe has written to the First Minister to “question the logic” of the Council Tax freeze - which was announced by the SNP at its conference in October and confirmed in the December Budget.

Chris McEleny, general secretary of the Alba Party and a former Inverclyde councillor, said it is hypocritical for Labour to be suggesting South Lanarkshire residents shouldn’t see their Council Tax increase while arguing people in Inverclyde should.

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He has now urged McCluskey to “come clean” on his stance ahead of this year’s election.

McEleny said: “You could be forgiven for concluding that the Labour Party must think people in Inverclyde button up at the back.

“Last year, Sir Keir Starmer was promising an English-only Council Tax freeze and it was to be paid for by a windfall tax on Scotland’s North Sea oil and gas

“Meanwhile, in Inverclyde, Labour councillors are saying that our council tax must go up but they spent the end of last summer in Rutherglen telling people that a vote for Labour would be a vote against making people pay more council tax - and now there’s even a picture of them doing it. 

“Labour’s General Election candidate Martin McLuskey was happy to campaign against increases to Council Tax in South Lanarkshire, so why should council tax have to increase for hard working people in Inverclyde?

“I am therefore calling on him to come clean and tell people in Inverclyde what his position is.”

McEleny has been campaigning for a Council Tax freeze in Inverclyde and said there is an opportunity “to give a break to people who are really struggling” in the upcoming council budget.

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In a letter to Yousaf in November, McCabe said: “The elected members of Inverclyde Council wish me to raise our own significant concerns around both the announcement [of the freeze] and the implications it has for the council’s budget and the residents of Inverclyde.

“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.”

In the Budget, ministers have made available a further £144 million to enable local authorities to freeze council tax rates at their current levels, equivalent to an above-inflation 5% rise.

McCluskey said: "The Labour Party campaign in Rutherglen opposed the SNP’s proposals for an increase of over 20% in Council Tax for many people. This was a campaign that we won and the SNP scrapped their plans, potentially saving people in Inverclyde hundreds of pounds.

"The SNP’s announcement of a Council Tax freeze – without any idea of how they would pay for it – has led us to where we are now, with councils facing massive cuts.

"Inverclyde Council is currently consulting with the public on the budget for next year. I’d encourage everyone who cares about the future of their services to respond to that consultation.

“This latest intervention from Chris McEleny is the kind of disingenuous rubbish that puts people off politics.”

McCabe added: "Mr McEleny’s claim that I campaigned ‘against hikes to council tax in one part of Scotland during an election but will be supporting council tax increases in my own backyard’ is entirely false.

"The Labour Party leaflet in Rutherglen and Hamilton West – which I had no role in writing – was highlighting the Scottish Government’s proposals at that time to increase Council Tax for households in bands E to H by between 7.5% and 22.5% in 2024 before any local increase was applied by councils."