Feeling the squeeze

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Householders in West Lothian are facing a one per cent hike in council tax if the proposal is rubberstamped.

This is on top of the increase facing those in properties in Band E to H following the Scottish Government’s revision.

Figures produced by West Lothian Council show over half of the households in Linlithgow are in bands E to H and could have to meet increases of between £118 and £535 a year.

For the first time in ten years councils across Scotland have the opportunity to raise tax by up to three per cent.

The planned local rise is on top of an extra £2.88 million to be raised from the Scottish Government’s revision of council tax.

The proposed tax rise still leaves the council needing to plug a £9m budget shortfall for next year ­and “other measures will be needed” to close the gap.

The council has vowed there will be no compulsory redundancies but staffing numbers are expected to decrease by 62.

The local authority is planning to invest nearly £396 million to deliver services, if the budget is agreed at Monday’s meeting.

However, the government’s grant funding is labelled “insufficient” to meet the increasing costs and demand for services, leaving the council budget shortfall of around £9.8m. The planned one per cent rise on council tax would reduce that by a further £744,000 to £9m.

Councillors will decide how to close the budget gap when they meet and this will include consideration of 
the level of council tax for 2017-18.

Council leader John McGinty remained positive.

He said: “I believe this budget will help to positively shape West Lothian and continue to build upon the key outcomes that have been achieved across our communities.

“In spite of reductions in our funding, we are confident that we are making 
the right choices for local people and our communities and our budget will reflect that.

“Next year, the council will look to continue to build upon our key success to date with an additional £150m being invested in education, £100.6m on social services and around £56m on maintaining West Lothian’s paths, waste services, community facilities and infrastructure.

“Tax increases would fall far short of what is needed to plug our budget gap of £9.8million next year and other measures will 
be needed.”