Falkirk councillors agree to freeze council tax

Council tax in the Falkirk area will be frozen this year, after councillors agreed to accept Scottish Government funding in its place.

Thursday, 4th March 2021, 9:16 am
Picture Lisa Evans 18-01-2019. Falkirk Council Leader Cecil Meiklejohn.

Members of Falkirk Council unanimously agreed to accept the equivalent of a three per cent rise as they took the unprecendented step of setting the council tax a full week earlier than the budget.

Council leader, the SNP’s Cecil Meiklejohn, said: “The pandemic has had an impact on everyone and every household, and helping everyone to some degree with no increase in council tax – having been fully funded by the Scottish Government – is the right thing to do.”

However, members of all three parties also agreed to write to the Scottish Government finance secretary Kate Forbes, asking for reassurance that the increase would be baselined – meaning this year’s increase would be built-in to future settlements. Mrs Meiklejohn proposed writing the joint letter, saying a decision would remove at least some of the uncertainty facing local government finance at the moment.

The Labour group agreed with both proposals, with leader Robert Bissett saying the freeze would help families in the short term.

He particularly welcomed the move to seek assurances that it would be baselined, to avoid problems next year.

The Conservative group also agreed to both – their leader James Kerr saying the freeze would help “thousands of people who are struggling”.

The decision means that Falkirk Council will still have a band D charge of £1,225.58 which is the fifth lowest in mainland Scotland.

Meanwhile, the £90 million for Falkirk’s Growth Deal will now be delivered over ten years rather than 15, UK chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced.

HM Treasury promised the acceleration among several measures it hopes will lead to faster investment in areas such as infrastructure improvements to support sustainable travel, tourism and energy across Scotland.

Projects that will be part of Falkirk’s Growth Deal – which is part-funded by both Westminster and the Scottish Government – include a centre for excellence in green bus technology including hydrogen, community owned solar energy, green routeways and an outdoor art park.

The deal also hopes to deliver a sustainable manufacturing campus in Grangemouth focusing on capturing and using carbon and industrial biotechnology such as producing fuel from whisky waste and sugar beets.

A Falkirk Council spokesperson said: “This will advance Falkirk and Scotland’s economic recovery and revitalise our town centres with a transport interchange in the centre of Falkirk and new tourism development on our canals.”

Falkirk Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: “We welcome the announcement that the funding coming to Falkirk will be accelerated.

“Delivering over a 10-year rather than a 15-year period will ensure the Falkirk area comes out of the current crisis well prepared to make a strong economic recovery.

“Covid-19 has had a devastating effect on our health, wellbeing and economy in 2020.

“Along with our partners, we are fully committed to focusing our plans on net zero and will ensure that once the current crisis is behind us, we can focus on creating a prosperous and sustainable future for all.”