Council tax will rise by 4.28% across Perth and Kinross after a last-minute deal between the Conservative administration and the Liberal Democrats at yesterday’s budget meeting.
The Tories increased their original proposal from 4% to gain the support of the Lib Dems, who had been looking for 4.83% – the maximum local authorities are allowed to set.
The increase will see residents living in a Band D property paying £1,318 a year, £54 more than the current charge.
The SNP group put forward an amended budget containing a 3.72% rise while the
Labour and independents sought an increase of 2.5%.
Councillors Callum Purves and Colin Stewart, who were both suspended from the administration last year, submitted a proposal with no council tax increase at all.
In the budget agreement the Liberal Democrats also secured funding for a number of their initiatives, including site improvements for Gypsy Travellers and the trialling of a one-stop Men’s Learning Shop to try to reduce reoffending.
Speaking on the funding for the Travelling community, Liberal Democrat group leader Pete Barrett said: “Urgent action is needed to address energy costs and issues identified by the recent stock condition survey the poor thermal efficiency of chalets and to tackle other on-site priorities identified by community members.”
The deal also means the Community Investment Fund will continue for the next three years after the Conservative group suggested a one-year gap in 2020/21.
The Conservative and Lib Dem groups struck a conciliatory tone following what was, at times, a fractious meeting as opposition groups accused the administration of back-tracking on promises made to their voters.
Council and Conservative group leader Murray Lyle admitted that concessions had been made but was happy to get his party’s budget over the line – being passed by a single vote, 18 to 17.
Mr Lyle said: “I’m delighted that we’ve got another budget through.
“It’s a Conservative budget. We’ve had to take on board some of the proposals from some of the Lib Dem group.
“We found that they were the group most closely aligned with our budget.
“I would like to thank them for their co-operation in that and I also thank the SNP for their thoughts and discussion throughout.”
Mr Barrett said: “In all these talks there’s inevitably a compromise.
“We got the Conservatives to increase their council tax upwards and closer to us and that makes something like £750,000 of a difference over the next three years to the council funds, which is important.
“We got all the policy asks and they are very important measures.”
Opposition groups said the council tax rise will “hit the poorest hardest”.
SNP group leader Grant Laing said: “The Conservatives that campaigned three years ago said it would be 0% and 1% and that’s three budgets in a row they’ve been proven not to stick to their promise on council tax to the people of Perth and Kinross, and now they’ve went higher than anyone apart from the Lib Dems.”
Speaking before the Conservative group increased their council tax rise from 4% to 4.28%, Labour councillor Alasdair Bailey said: “If passed, this so-called conservative budget will mean that council tax in this area will have increased by 20.5% over their five years in office.
“I’m not a fan of Conservatism any more than I am of council tax, a regressive tax that hits the poorest hardest.
“However, I am a fan of local democracy and I worry that Conservative voters will feel they’re getting very poor value for money from this administration.”
Independent councillor Xander McDade said: “Council tax is a regressive tax that hits poorer families and pensioners the most and we encourage the Scottish Parliament to urgently look at reform measures.”
Councillor Purves had hit out at both the Lib Dem and Conservative budgets before the deal was struck.
He said: “With their budget, the Liberal Democrats have punitively made residents in Perth and Kinross pay for their ideological obsession with tax and spend.
“While the Conservative group – and I use that word in the loosest sense possible – have presented a budget that could well have been written by the Liberal Democrats.
“The only thing Conservative about this budget is the fact that it has been printed on blue paper.”