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By Hugh Boag
Council tax in North Ayrshire will be frozen next year when the council sets its budget early next month, the Banner can reveal.
It follows an offer of £2,182,000 from the Scottish government to the council to enable it to deliver a council tax freeze for financial year 2021/22, which begins in April, and it will provide some relief to tens of thousands of households during these tough times.
The Scottish government previously froze the council tax for nine consecutive years from 2008 to 2017, whilst it rose year on year in England.
The average Band D council tax is now £1,818 per year in England but £480 less – £1,338 – in Scotland. It is £1,343 in North Ayrshire.
Under the Scottish government’s 2021/22 draft budget plans, a majority of taxpayers will also continue to pay less income tax than they would if they lived elsewhere in the UK.
North Ayrshire Council leader Joe Cullinane told the Banner: ‘It’s no real surprise that the SNP has chosen to prioritise a council tax freeze that will disproportionately benefit those in the largest houses, rather than a redistributive policy such as a £13 increase to the Scottish Child Payment that would take families out of poverty and cost the same amount.
‘That said, we will take up the option to freeze council tax next year. However, we will be joining COSLA in demanding that the Scottish government include the funding to freeze council tax into the base settlement for local government going forward. If it doesn’t do so, councils will face an even bigger financial gap next year which could lead to higher council tax increases then.’
Arran MSP Kenneth Gibson said: ‘We all know the financial impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had, on families, couples and people living alone. This is why the Scottish government is keen to help.
‘The decision whether or not to increase council tax lies with North Ayrshire councillors, and if they choose to do the right thing and freeze their rates this year, NAC will be fully supported to the tune of £2,182,000, equivalent to three per cent of council tax income.
‘In these tough times, the Scottish government has proven that where Scotland has the powers, we will take a different approach to give Scots the fairest deal in the UK and I hope our councillors will choose to accept these funds rather than levy additional taxes on to residents of Arran and across North Ayrshire.’
NAC will meet on Thursday March 4 online to set its 2021/22 budget and council tax.