Local authorities will be forced to “set council tax rates blind” due to the delay with the UK Budget, a city councillor claimed today.
North-east politicians have accused the Westminster Government of showing “contempt for Scotland” after UK Chancellor Sajid Javid confirmed the budget will take place on March 11.
Scottish councils legally have to set local tax rates by the same date, meaning both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire councillors will be forced to set the council tax rate without knowing how much funding is available to them.
The UK budget, which was initially due to take place on November 6, was delayed because of Brexit and the Government’s calls for a December election.
Councillor Jackie Dunbar, SNP interim group leader, said: “We will essentially have to set the council tax rates blind, not knowing what the Scottish Government grant will be and therefore not knowing how much money the council will be getting.”
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill said setting the council tax rate would be “very difficult”.
He said: “It’s an intolerable situation and it’s been created by the right-wing Conservative Government in London.”
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Douglas Lumsden, co-leader of Aberdeen City Council and Conservative group leader, confirmed councillors will still have to meet on March 3, the date they had already scheduled for their budget, in order to agree the council tax rate.
But he added the local authority was “still deciding” whether to agree the rest of the budget for 2020-21 at a later date once they know their settlement.
Similarly, Aberdeenshire Council leader Jim Gifford said they would “almost certainly” still have to meet on February 13 to set their council tax and then “set the budget later”.
Scottish Finance Secretary Derek Mackay slammed the UK Government for giving “no prior notice” in announcing the date, saying it showed “complete disrespect” for the Scottish Parliament and its process.
He added: “I received no response to our repeated calls for clarity on the budget date, including the most recent letter sent to the chancellor just two weeks ago.
“The failure of the UK Government to publish its budget at an earlier time means we do not have clarity on the funding available for our schools, hospitals and other public services. Despite this, we remain focused on introducing a Scottish budget for 2020-21 at the earliest practical opportunity.”
A HM Treasury spokesman said: “Nothing stops the Scottish Parliament from passing their budget before the UK Budget.
“We are working with Holyrood as part of an agreed process to provide the information they need to prepare their budget.
“At the Spending Round, we announced that the Scottish Government’s block grant will increase by £1.2 billion next year.”