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Council / Recommendation to go with council tax freeze

SHETLAND’s elected members will be recommended next week to freeze council tax for the coming financial year.

However, there will be a recommendation to increase housing rents and charges by five per cent.

Members will also be recommended to use its new statutory discretion to increase council tax for second homes and long-term empty properties by 110 per cent to 200 per cent, which could raise up to £700,000 in additional income.

It is part of a Scottish Government drive to increase housing availability by encouraging more homes to be used for living in.

Final decisions will be made at a meeting of the full council on Thursday.

It all comes against a backdrop of the Scottish Government proposing a council tax freeze across the country.

The report to councillors next week said the government is issuing a financial incentive for councils to freeze, and this is around £520,000 for Shetland Islands Council – equivalent to a five per cent increase.

It said that “simplistically the freeze offer is the better approach”.

The report added that the majority of Scottish councils, “whilst unhappy with the approach taken”, will accept a freeze.

Elected members are also being encouraged to set a strategic direction on council tax rises in future year.

“Currently Shetland has the lowest band D council tax charge,” the report said.

“Other local authorities have set a long-term vision of a fixed rate of council tax increase with a target to get to the Scottish average. This has the merit of setting out a clear position so that increases are known in advance as a default.

“Officers could also investigate the concept that the council tax increases are clearly earmarked for specific areas so that members of the public can see where the money is spent.”

Regarding housing, the council has undertaken some consultation and the outcome supported a proposal to increase fees by five per cent and correspondingly reduce the amount of planned work undertaken, with the exception of energy efficiency works.

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