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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December, 2003, 17:06 GMT
Budget rise for Scottish councils
Council tax card and money
Council bills in Scotland are expected to rise by an average of 3.9%.
Scotland's 32 local councils will get on average a 5% increase in their budget next year, Local Government Minister Andy Kerr has confirmed.

There will be a total budget for local authority spending of 7.6bn next year and 8bn the year after.

Mr Kerr has also announced an increase in the business rate of 2.1% to 48.8 pence in the pound.

It is hoped the money for 2004/5 should allow councils to keep their council tax increases to below 5%.

However, the local authorities body Cosla expressed doubts about the true value of the funding to them and the Scottish Executive has come under fire from opposition parties.

The cash is coming to Scotland as a consequence of a decision by Chancellor Gordon Brown to provide extra cash for town halls in England, where hefty council tax rises have provoked a storm of protest in some areas.

But while rises in England have averaged 12.9%, Scotland is expected to have average increases of 3.9%.

Under the rules of devolution, Scotland gets a consequential share of any extra public spending announced south of the border, but the Scottish Executive can decide how to spend it.

Councils will now examine these figures closely and look to provide the best services for the public from the money available whilst at the same time keeping council tax levels to a minimum
Pat Watters
Cosla
An executive spokeswoman said: "The money from an allocation designed to help reduce council tax increases down south would be spent in a way that was best for Scotland.

"He (Mr Kerr) added that we don't have the same issues with council tax in Scotland, and he will come back to cabinet in the new year with proposals for how to allocate our share of the money.

"I think the message is fairly clear that we will be looking at different ways of spending the money."

The SNP's finance spokesman Fergus Ewing accused the executive of mis-spending taxpayers' cash.

'Lack of confidence'

He said: "There is widespread public concern about whether the money presently spent is being spent effectively and whether it's half a million pounds for hedgehogs or 401m on Holyrood, there is an increasing lack of confidence in the stewardship of this executive."

And Tory finance spokesman Brian Monteith said: "The minister had the chance to be Father Christmas to the hard-pressed Scottish taxpayer but instead he has chosen to be the Grinch."

Local authority umbrella group Cosla said councils would be faced with "a standstill position" at best.

President Pat Watters added: "Councils will now examine these figures closely and look to provide the best services for the public from the money available whilst at the same time keeping council tax levels to a minimum.

"This however is not a straightforward task."


SEE ALSO:
Councils urged to contain tax
04 Dec 02  |  Scotland


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