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by Kirsteen Paterson
19 March 2024
All Scottish town halls to freeze council tax as Inverclyde leader agrees 'reluctant' U-turn

Humza Yousaf pledged to freeze council tax across Scotland. That will now be delivered | Alamy

All Scottish town halls to freeze council tax as Inverclyde leader agrees 'reluctant' U-turn

The leader of Inverclyde Council has told Shona Robison he will "reluctantly" call off a local council tax hike in a blistering letter.

The local authority is one of two in Scotland which declined to freeze council tax this year, in line with a Scottish Government push aimed at easing the cost-of-living crisis.

Bills were set to rise by 8.2 per cent under local budget plans agreed by the Labour-led authority, meaning the area would miss out on millions in cash that ministers said they would pay to fund the freeze.

The move was a blow to First Minister Humza Yousaf – whose announcement of the policy came as a suprise to local government body Cosla, which was not consulted in advance – and talks between Edinburgh and Greenock have continued over recent weeks.

Now Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe has said he will "reluctantly" recommend a "reset" to local plans.

The move comes after Argyll and Bute Council said it would meet to consider a reversal of it own 10 per cent increase next month.

McCabe's letter, addressed to Deputy First Minister Shona Robison and copied to Cosla president Shona Morrison and her deputy Steven Heddle, states: "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. Contrary to what you claim, this is a regressive tax policy that doesn't benefit the lowest income households.

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

"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."

McCabe, whose authority is the area's largest employer, says it is "clear" that Robison "will not allow the people of Inverclyde to benefit" from the designated funding pot unless the council agrees to the government's terms.

He stated that with written confirmation of the funding involved, he will "reluctantly" recommend that the freeze is adopted.

Bills have already been issued and the U-turn will be delivered by paying a one-off rebate to residents.

The news comes three days after Robison pressed McCabe to make a decision on the matter, telling him: "The offer to Inverclyde is precisely the same offer made to every other council."

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