Angus Council plans to increase its council tax for all homes by the maximum percentage as it seeks to address a £15m gap in its budget next year.
For the first time in nearly a decade local authorities have been given the option of raising council tax by up to three per cent without this affecting their Government settlement.
Deputy leader Paul Valentine and finance spokesman Bill Duff said yesterday that the SNP administration plans to introduce the increase in this year’s budget, which will be set on February 16, in a bid to raise around £1.3m.
This is in addition to the national increase on council tax bands E to H which means the upper tax bands will be hit with a double whammy of increases from April.
In total, it is expected that these increases, combined with a small increase in the number of homes in Angus, will raise more than £3m of additional council tax income.
The budget will also detail cuts to services, job losses and “one off measures” to enable the council to balance the books in 2017-18.
Mr Duff and Mr Valentine would not disclose what measures they plan or how many jobs might be lost, indicating more information would be forthcoming ahead of the budget meeting.
Although the settlement from the Scottish Government is lower than in previous years, finance officers are still looking at the implication of a £160m boost to councils which was announced on Thursday as part of the Government’s budget.
It was announced earlier this week that Angus schools will also receive £2.1m as part of a national pupil equity fund designed to improve standards.
The council is now projecting that it will have to bridge a funding gap of between £41m and £51m in the next four years.
Mr Duff said: “This year £15m is the gap we’ve got. It’s tough and it’s going to get tougher. That’s where we are.
“For a while the council was what we call salami slicing – saying 2% off everything, 3% or 4%.
“We can no longer make the sort of savings we require by salami slicing. We have to take a more strategic approach and that’s what the Transforming Angus programme is doing.”
When asked how the £15m gap was going to be bridged, Mr Duff replied: “In a variety of ways.
“There is going to be the council tax increase, there are some savings that we have identified already and it is probable that there will be some one-off measures we will take.
“These aren’t measures that we would necessarily repeat and wouldn’t be our first choice but it’s all part of the strategy to bridge the gap and we will release details on this in due course.”
He said that among the areas being looked at were using the real estate more efficiently, with the possibility that some council properties would be sold. Employees are now being encouraged to ‘hot desk’ which reduces the amount of office space required.
“We are using a smaller footprint and we don’t need as much real estate and that frees up buildings we can either redeploy, sell or rent out,” Mr Duff added.
Work by consultant EY – who take a percentage of savings found – has helped to identify some of the savings required.
Mr Valentine said: “I would say it has been the toughest budget to make, with the size of the cuts on top of savings that have been made in previous years.
“It always gets that little bit more difficult as you go on and it looks like it’s going to be like that for the next three or four years at least.”