THE Scottish Government’s council tax freeze looks set to be applied across all 32 local authorities. 

It comes after both Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde Councils turned back on their decision increase council tax, instead of complying with Scottish Government policy. 

Trade unions have staunchly opposed the Scottish Government’s council tax freeze, first announced at the SNP conference in October, which proposed that the Government would pay Councils what they otherwise would have raised through the tax. 

Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary Shona Robison (below) said that councils which raised council tax in their budgets would not be given a share of the additional £62.7 million in extra funding. 

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At the time, trade unions warned that the money set aside by the Scottish Government would not be enough to cover the funds lost by freezing the tax, putting additional strain on services and workers. 

However, it seems the last two local authorities to defy the freeze have turned back on that commitment, with both Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde Councils saying they’ll adopt some form of council tax freeze. 

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Argyll and Bute Council, which previously voted for a 10% increase in council tax, has said it will now reconsider agreeing to the freeze after receiving additional assistance to deal with the impact of severe weather. 

Meanwhile, Inverclyde Council has said it will issue a “one-off credit” to taxpayers to mitigate the impact of the 8.2% increase in council tax approved for the 2024/25 financial year. 

All of this is subject to each council passing a special vote. 

‘This is a regressive tax policy’ 

The decision to abide by the council tax freeze was not made lightly, according to one council leader. 

Stephen McCabe (below), council leader for Inverclyde Council, wrote a letter to the Deputy First Minister on Tuesday outlining his “reluctance” to adopt the policy. 

The National:

“It is deeply frustrating that your government continues to insist that the council can only have access to the £2.9m of taxpayers’ funds set aside for Inverclyde if we agree to implement a council tax freeze,” McCabe wrote. 

“Contrary to what you claim, this is a regressive tax policy that doesn’t benefit the lowest income households. 

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“It is also undemocratic and a clear breach of the Verity House Agreement.” 

The Verity House Agreement is a partnership between the Scottish and Local Government which aims to tackle poverty, “transform the economy” through a just transition, and “deliver sustainable person-centred public services”. 

McCabe continued: “As each day passes the impact of the council tax freeze on local government services and jobs across Scotland, including on education and social care, becomes more evident.  

“The £210m you have set aside for the freeze would have been better spent on protecting these services and jobs.” 

While of course making a political point benefitting Labour, McCabe is also echoing the frustration of many in the trade union movement, including the STUC – Scotland's largest trade union body – which has strongly opposed the “regressive” nature of the tax and has instead proposed to replace it with a wealth tax. 

The fact remains, however, that even if all councils adopt the council tax freeze, the money put aside by the Scottish Government falls £160m short of the £300m local authorities say is needed. 

So where is the rest of the money going to come from?