Page last updated at 10:17 GMT, Friday, 13 February 2009

Council tax frozen in Highlands

Milton of Leys, Inverness
A freeze on council tax for Highland households has been agreed

Highland Council has frozen council tax levels for the second year running, it has been confirmed.

Tax rates and a budget of 598m for 2009/10 were debated at a special meeting in Inverness. But cuts will have to be made, including job loses.

Council tax has been kept at 2007/08 levels. For band D properties it means an annual charge of 1,163.

Meanwhile, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is to set its budget and council tax on 19 February.

While the council tax has been frozen, household water and waste water bills in Scotland for 2009/10 will rise by 3.7%.

Council tax levels: band A 775.33; B 904.56; C 1,033.78; D 1,163; E 1,421.44; F 1,679.89; G 1,938.33 and H 2,326
Education culture and sport is the service receiving the biggest chunk of the budget with 232.5m
Social work takes the second largest slice with 101m
Scottish Water said the average water bill for households would be about 324.

Highland Council's ruling administration previously warned more than 100 jobs would have to go to help make savings.

These losses would be sought through natural wastage, avoiding compulsory redundancies.

David Alston, budget leader and chairman of the budget information group, said the budget was a particularly tough one, given a tight settlement from the Scottish Government which was based on a freeze on the council tax.

He said a budget gap of 13m had to be bridged.

Mr Alston added: "We have made a number of efficiencies but we must be honest with the public and say we have had to make cuts.

"We have striven to find the least worst options. No-one is going to hide from that.

"There is growth where it matters and we will maintain frontline services so we can help and support the people of the Highlands through the recession."

The opposition SNP group criticised the cuts.

Councillor Drew Miller said: "There are some quite mean little cuts there in terms of things that are going to be supporting people in difficulties during difficult times."

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