Council tax payers in Dundee will see their bills frozen for a year after councillors agreed the city’s annual budget.
The freeze fixes the band D rate for the second year at £1,379, after additional funding from the Scottish Government.
It came as part of a £373 million spending package which council leader John Alexander billed as “honest, robust and clear” in its intentions to tackle social problems.
However, the opposition Labour group accused the SNP of “raiding” around £778,000 of Scottish Government cash earmarked for the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership.
The SNP group plans included a smaller rise for the body at the heart of social care delivery during the pandemic.
Significant further cuts loom on the local authority’s horizon. A three-year financial plan contains a further £24m of savings over the next two financial years after the one ahead.
And even greater amounts may yet need to be found to pay for Covid-19 costs from March 2022 onwards, the budget papers warn.
Councillor Willie Sawers, finance spokesman, said: “I am pleased and relieved to be in a position to be able to freeze the council tax this year in recognition of the exceptional challenges that have been faced by both public and household finances in the past 12 months.
“Covid-19 and its aftermath have added to the considerable challenges the city was already tackling but Dundee’s reputation as a well-run, high-performing, award-winning and ambitious local authority that delivers best value for our communities remains intact.”
Mr Alexander said: “We have to be mindful of the challenge that is ahead of us and that still gives me cause for concern.”
‘Issues’ remain in health and social care
Labour group leader councillor Kevin Keenan said those on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus, working in the health and social care partnership, deserved a greater funding boost.
He said: “Our proposals fundamentally look to support health and social care. We don’t believe we are out of the pandemic. We would leave the money in health and social care as we believe there have been a number of issues.”
His colleague councillor Michael Marra, recently appointed to new Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar’s “campaign cabinet”, said: “We know there are severe economic consequences yet to come that we will all feel right across these islands and beyond.”
The approved plans include a pay increase for the council’s lowest paid employees, a renewed commitment to building a new Mill of Mains Community Facility and a £60 million Craigie/Braeview secondary school replacement.
The budget also includes a freeze on burial charges and an extra £1 million for mental health, drugs issues and tackling poverty.
Councillors voted down opposition amendments, including more money for the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership, town centres and extra street cleaners.
Bigger cuts in the future
The council expects to have to make overall cuts of £25.5 million over the next three years to balance its budget.
The savings target for the coming financial year is £1.35m with significantly larger savings on the horizon for the remaining two years.
In 2022/23 savings of £8.7m will need to be found while for 2023/24 the cuts total almost doubles to £15.4m.
The local authority’s projected General Fund, which must remain uncommitted to protect against future risks, drops to £7.5m. This is close to the council’s lowest permitted level.