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SIC proposes 3 per cent council tax rise

| Written by Neil Riddell, local democracy reporter

SIC head of finance Jonathan Belford. SIC head of finance Jonathan Belford. COUNCILLORS will next week be asked to agree a three per cent increase in council tax as the local authority sets its budget for the year ahead.

The rise – the maximum increase councils are permitted to impose by the Scottish Government – would raise an additional £270,000 in 2018/19.

It is estimated that council tax will generate £9.4 million in total, less than a tenth of the SIC’s proposed £107 million general fund budget.

This is the second year councils have been allowed to raise council tax rates following a nine-year freeze.

A report from finance chief Jonathan Belford states that an improved financial settlement from the government had been “vital” in allowing it to set a balanced budget.

The government’s funding for core services will be broadly in line with what the SIC received last year – with the crucial addition of £5 million towards the funding gap for ferries.

Councillors and MSPs have been arguing for extra money for inter-island ferry services for years.

Rent for housing tenants will increase by two per cent plus an additional £1 a week.

Belford also warns that pay increases and other inflationary costs mean that “new and creative options for transforming the way we do things as a council are essential”.

“The funding package for the council in 2018/19 is a step forward, as services receive funding that has been sought for many years, but it is not the end of the work, it does not resolve the sustainability issue and there is no certainty, if there ever can be, of the value of future funding either for revenue or capital investment in the inter-island ferry services.”

The full budget report will go before the Full Council next Wednesday.

While last week’s ferry funding announcement from the SNP government was warmly welcomed, environment and transport committee chairman Ryan Thomson did sound a note of caution that it was short of the £7.5 million the SIC had asked for, and contained no mention of capital costs towards replacement ferries or infrastructure.

SIC political leader Cecil Smith took umbrage to a social media posting from Thomson on the subject a few days ago, publicly responding: “If you want further positive discussion and negotiation I would suggest that you keep quiet and stop putting blame at the doors of those who have got us to where we are.

“I am surprised that some new members of our councillors [sic] haven’t come to terms with democracy and how it all comes together and when it comes to discussing with the real politics how hard it is to get some form of a result.”

Thomson replied: “Perhaps something that could/should be discussed in private Cecil? Failing that, use some of your own advice and ‘keep quiet’.”

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