Council tax freeze confirmed as Inverclyde and Argyll and Bute announce U-turns

All 32 local authorities will now not raise council tax following assurances from the Scottish Government.

Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde will implement a council tax freeze
Argyll and Bute and Inverclyde will implement a council tax freeze (Jane Barlow/PA)

Council tax is set to be frozen in all of Scotland’s councils after the two local authorities who defied the freeze announced U-turns.

Councillors in Argyll and Bute initially approved a 10% increase, while Inverclyde would have seen an 8.2% rise this year and 6% the following year.

But leaders of both local authorities have now confirmed they will recommend those decisions be overturned following positive discussions with the Scottish Government.

Argyll and Bute Council leader Robin Currie said he announced he will advocate for the freeze at a special meeting next month after ministers pledged “extra assistance” to deal with the impact of severe weather.

In Inverclyde, leader Stephen McCabe said the decision to overturn the council tax increase was made “reluctantly” and on the basis that ministers would provide £2.9 million in additional funding.

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison, who is also in charge of Scotland’s finances, said local authorities which raised council tax would not receive a share of the additional £62.7 million in extra funding, or the £147.3 million initially allocated to fund the freeze.

In an updated letter to Ms Robison, Mr McCabe said it was “deeply frustrating” that the Scottish Government would not give Inverclyde a share of the funding, worth £2.9 million, unless it froze council tax.

He said those funds would have been better spent protecting local services.

“It is clear however that you will not allow the people of Inverclyde to benefit from the £2.9 million of funding unless the council agrees to the terms,” Mr McCabe said.

“I can advise therefore that reluctantly, and subject to you providing written confirmation that our share of the £147.3m council tax freeze grant and the additional £62.7m negotiated by Cosla is not less than the total of £2.9m you have repeatedly stated, I will recommend to the Policy and Resources Committee at the next available opportunity that we make a one-off credit to council taxpayers to fully mitigate the impact of the 8.2% increase in council tax approved for 2024-25.

“I will also recommend to the Committee an amended planning assumption for the 2025/26 provisional budget based on the 2023/24 Council Tax baseline being the start point.”

However, he asked ministers to give written assurances that there will also be no nationally imposed freeze or cap for 2025-26 and that the additional funding be “baselined” for the same time frame.

Argyll and Bute leader Mr Currie said: “We can now look at freezing council tax for the coming year.

“We have been lobbying hard for equal support for Argyll and Bute which reflects the incredibly severe impact of unprecedented severe weather in October last year.

“We made a very strong case for that to the Scottish Government at a meeting we asked for in January this year.

“We have continued to press ministers ever since on a range of other issues. We are of course delighted that they have listened to our calls for severe weather support and that they have now provided for Argyll and Bute that extra assistance that we are fighting for.”

The council states additional funding totalling around £6.26 million means the overall financial circumstances are improved.

That included £2.3 million for the impact of severe weather in October and £1.1 million for Argyll and Bute through the additional £62.7 million if it agrees the freeze.

It would also see the council receive £2.86 million through the share of £147 million funding for a freeze.

Mr Currie added: “I will be recommending that we freeze council tax for this year at a special meeting of the council.”

The Deputy First Minister said: “I am pleased that Argyll & Bute and Inverclyde councils have signalled their intentions for council tax in 2024-25.

“If the councils proceed with these decisions, council tax will effectively be frozen across the whole of Scotland, with households in 31 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities having a simple freeze in their council tax next year, and those in Inverclyde receiving a one-off rebate to reverse the impact of their 8.2% increase.

“This will directly benefit people in every part of Scotland during an ongoing cost-of-living crisis.”