SNP accuse Labour of trying to 'scaremonger' over council tax in Renfrewshire

A general image of Renfrewshire House in Paisley
-Credit: (Image: Andrew Neil)

The SNP administration has accused the Labour group of trying to "scaremonger" over the possibility of future council tax hikes in Renfrewshire.

A row broke out in the chambers on Thursday as the local authority's unaudited accounts for 2023/24 were discussed at the full summit. The dispute focused on a report by finance chief Alastair MacArthur, which said a potential funding gap of £45 to £50 million from 2024/25 to 2027/28 could drop to £30m if council tax rose by 19.5 per cent over that period.

Councillor Graeme Clark, a Labour representative for Paisley Northeast and Ralston, said: "I note on page 18 of our papers that this SNP administration is considering a 19.5 per cent rise in council tax.

"Now, in the three years following this one, we're facing a £296 rise in council tax here in Renfrewshire, while at the same time providing less and less service with eight to £12 million worth of cuts each year. Am I correct in that figure – 19.5 per cent rise in council tax?"

Mr MacArthur, the council's director of finance and resources, asked if he could "very gently correct" the point made by Councillor Clark. "That is not the administration's position," he responded. "It is my planning assumption for how council tax increases may be modelled in the coming years."

Council leader Iain Nicolson, who is also an SNP representative for Erskine and Inchinnan, claimed Councillor Clark was "trying to make a political statement" as he issued a fiery retort. He said: "On page 18, there's a tiny, little word in one of the paragraphs and it was covered by the officer – 'if' council tax was to be increased.

"A small, little word means a lot – 'if'. Councillor Clark knows fine well the decision with regards to council tax increase or not lies with the budget meetings every single year.

"If Councillor Clark is telling us that his Labour group is not proposing to put up the council tax for the next three years, I think that people will be delighted to hear that. They have not indicated that so far with any of their actions at the budget meetings, so don't come along to this meeting and try and scaremonger and try and scrape out some sort of misinformation for political point-scoring when in fact you know fine well this report reflects the officer's financial perspective on our budget position.

"It's always been up to the elected members on this council to decide which way they want to go with the budgets. That's always been the case."

Council tax was frozen in Renfrewshire for 2024/25 after the council accepted Scottish Government funding earlier this year. It meant the Band D charge – used as a general measure – remained at £1,436.17. However, difficult decisions are expected to be required at the next budget in February amid a stark financial situation for local authorities.

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