SCOTTISH Borders Council leader Euan Jardine is to meet First Minister Humza Yousaf today (Thursday October 19 2023) to discuss plans to freeze council tax.

The unexpected headline announcement was made by the SNP leader as he closed his party’s annual conference in Aberdeen on Tuesday October 17 2023.

The Scottish Government had previously opened a consultation which could have seen council tax on the highest band properties increased by between 7.5% and 22.5%.

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Councillor Jardine has now urged the First Minister to reconsider his plans.

He said: “The unilateral council tax freeze announcement by the First Minister is political opportunism without a fundamental grasp of the bigger picture.

"A few months ago, I signed the COSLA and Scottish Government Verity House agreement on behalf of the Scottish Conservatives in good faith that the Scottish Government would honour its commitment to collaborate with and empower local governments to make decisions that best serve their communities.

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“It is both astonishing and deeply disappointing that there has been no communication with COSLA regarding this decision.

“It blatantly contradicts the principles of the Verity House agreement, shatters trust and leaves councils across the nation grappling with the daunting task of budget-setting and delivering essential services.

"Rest assured, I will staunchly advocate for the Scottish Borders and all local governments at the national level.

“If the Scottish Government truly intends to rebuild the trust they sought to establish through the Verity House agreement, they must swiftly backtrack on this ill-considered move.”

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A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “Following the First Minister’s announcement we are awaiting further information from the Scottish Government regarding the Council Tax freeze and implications for our financial settlement for 24/25.

“UK inflation is today running at 6.7% per annum, and any funding provided by the Scottish Government to freeze Council Tax as part of the Local Government settlement which is less than this figure is essentially a real terms cut in funding for local services.

“Each one per cent increase in the Council Tax provides approximately £700,000 per year to fund essential local services.”

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But Mr Yousaf insisted the freeze was needed to help with “almost everybody in Scotland” left struggling in the “Westminster cost-of-living crisis”.

There was no mention however of how much money would be provided to councils as a result – with discussions now set to take place with local government leaders.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The freeze announced on Tuesday October 17 fully funded by the Scottish Government, will benefit every Council Tax-payer in Scotland at a time when rising prices are putting significant strain on household finances.

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“The Scottish Government remains wholly committed to the Verity House Agreement, and as part of that are continuing work with COSLA on a new fiscal framework for local authorities.

“We are also working on longer term reforms to the council tax system, which are being considered by the working group on local government funding that we are chairing jointly with COSLA."

“Both the First Minister and Deputy First Minister are meeting local authorities as a priority to discuss their concerns.”