Council tax set to increase by 2.5 per cent in Perth and Kinross

Perth and Kinross Council has set a 2.5 per cent increase on council tax.

Councilors have rejected proposals to cut the winter maintenance budget, close public toilets, remove school crossing patrollers and to remove the school supply contingency budget.

PKC’s 2022/23 revenue budget was set at a special meeting on Wednesday, February 23.

The elected members and council officials met virtually with some attending a council meeting from offices at PKC’s Perth headquarters for the first time in almost two years.

The SNP group proposed a 2.73 per cent increase on council tax, the Lib Dems a 3.49 per cent increase while the Independent and Labor group proposed a council tax freeze.

The Conservative administration’s motion of a 2.5 per cent increase – a reduction from its previously approved 4.25 per cent increase – was voted through. This represents an additional £33 for a Band D property – increasing from £1,318 to £1,351 a year.

The Conservatives claimed a “more responsible” and “prudent” approach with their budget dipping into just over £1 million of uncommitted COVID reserves. The SNP group proposed using £7.9 million and the Independent and Labor group £9.2 million. The Lib Dems proposed a “sustainable” budget using no money from COVID reserves.

Lib Dem councillor Willie Robertson blasted the SNP and Ind/Lab budgets as “totally unsustainable” and said: “We can’t afford to throw money about like confetti on pet projects.”

SNP councilor Andrew Parrott was “astonished neither the Liberal Democrats or Conservatives were choosing to use this reserve at the right time”.

He said: “Now is the time to use the COVID reserve. Yes we are still cautious. We are not out of the woods yet but now is the time to act and we are acting.”

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The SNP proposed using the reserves to employ three more members of staff to the Welfare Rights Team, £600,000 of funding to help those in financial hardship, £250,000 for social prescribing and £600,000 for local action partnerships amongst a raft of other proposals.

The Independent and Labor group’s budget included a £10m future services wealth fund to “protect the people of Perth and Kinross from future financial challenge”.

Liberal Democrat proposals included £250,000 on town and city center regeneration and £150,000 on climate emergency plan funding.

Perth and Kinross Council leader Murray Lyle
Cllr Murray Lyle

Council leader Murray Lyle incorporated two Liberal Democrat proposals into the Conservative’s budget – a £76,000 investment in the Welfare Rights service and £150,000 on a community asset transfer enablement fund pilot. The pilot will support communities acquire council buildings falling into disrepair.

But the move did not win over the five Lib Dem councilors who all abstained from the final vote – along with Independent councilor Xander McDade and Labor councilor Alasdair Bailey.

The Conservative budget was voted through by 17 votes to 14. It was up against the SNP revenue budget voted through as the substantive amendment to face the Conservative motion.

The approved Conservative budget rejected proposals to close Blairgowrie public toilets and to only open Dunkeld public toilets seasonally.

It also rejected several more cuts and savings – proposed by council officials – including a 20 per cent cut to the winter maintenance budget and the removal of school crossing patrollers. Service charges and costs for hiring community campus spaces have been frozen with the proposed five per cent increase rejected.

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The approved budget included £100,000 to help children “disadvantaged by long periods of home learning back on track with their studies”, a variety of funds to promote economic development including £300,000 to help convert under-used/vacant High Street buildings for new use and £400,000 in the Community Investment Fund.

Council leader Murray Lyle said roads were a “top priority” pledging a further £4 million investment on roads and bridges, £100,000 in additional gully cleaning and £300,000 on road safety measures.

Moving the Conservative administration’s budget Cllr Lyle said: “Our prudent approach will still leave significant funds in the earmarked COVID reserve to help us manage the financial challenges of 2022/23 and beyond.”

He added: “This budget invests in our children and families. It invests in our economic wellbeing. It invests in our communities. It invests in climate change and in our infrastructure. It also minimizes the financial impact on all our households with a below inflation council tax increase this year.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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