Edinburgh council tax rise could pay for homeless accommodation

Tuesday February 19th 2019

Edinburgh Council

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, David Bol

Edinburgh council tax could rise by four per cent next year to funding housing for the Capital’s homeless families as the city’s coalition partners are locked in a “budget deadlock” ahead of Thursday’s crunch meeting.

On Thursday, city councillors will agree the 2019/20 budget – amid having to cut up to £41m from spending plans.

The SNP-Labour coalition is yet to publish final proposals ahead of the meeting, but one partner is calling for plans to increase council tax by four per cent to support homeless families in the Capital.

The Scottish Government has now given councils the power to raise council tax annually by more than the current three per cent cap – but the SNP group at City Chambers has a manifesto commitment to keep the rise to three per

A council insider has revealed that the Labour group is set to propose raising council tax next year above the previously committed three per cent. The source said a four per cent increase would amount to £1.10 extra per month for a Band D property and will give the authority £2.5m of additional funding.

The proposal would see the funding “ring-fenced for housing projects” – including borrowing additional money to build 160 homes to “get families out of temporary accommodation”.

Another proposal, yet to be signed off by the coalition, is to “protect nursery school teachers” by halting plans to remove qualified staff from early years institutions across the city in a bid to save £350,000.

But the SNP group has rejected the claim that a proposal has been tabled by their coalition partners to raise council tax above three per cent.

A SNP source said: “There was no proposal that came from the Labour group to the SNP to raise council tax to end the the use of temporary accommodation.

“Whoever leaked this is living in a fantasy land and not engaged with the process.”

Labour group leader Councillor Cammy Day said he was “keen to use the powers we have been given in council tax” and that any increase “may fund essential services for local communities” subject to public consultation.

In West Lothian, the minority Labour administration agreed to hike council tax to the maximum allowed in order to “protect vital local services and minimise job losses”.

Council leader Councillor Adam McVey could not be contacted for comment.

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