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SCOTTISH OVERHAUL ONLY NEEDS A TWEAK

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By Kerry Lorimer ...
By Kerry Lorimer

The need for radical reform of the local government finance system in Scotland has been called into question after councils set average council tax rises of 4.4%.

Increases range from 1.8% at West Dunbartonshire Council to 9.8% at Moray Council, but all are well below the 12.9% average increase in England last year which triggered a wide-ranging review into the way local government is funded.

The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, which is campaigning for an extension of existing property bandings, seized on the figures as proof that the system is in need of 'tweaking' rather than radical overhaul.

'I would appeal for great caution before rushing into any radical change that could prove to be disastrous,' said COSLA finance spokesman John Pentland (Lab).

'Whenever there is controversy about the method of paying for local services, it is easy for campaigning groups to say let's scrap the tax and replace it with something else.

'Yes, it needs a bit of tweaking but the system is immeasurably better than the discredited poll tax.'

Finance minister Andy Kerr said three year budgets had allowed councils to plan ahead with certainty.

'The fact most council tax levels are similar to provisional figures show this system is working,' he said.

Alan Logan, head of finance at West Lothian Council, said three-year budgets combined with a good settlement had helped keep council tax increases down.

'Three-year budgeting makes for better financial planning, but without a decent settlement from the Executive it wouldn't have kept council tax down,' he said.

The cost of supporting additional borrowing under the new prudential regime, to be introduced in April, added 1% to council tax in West Lothian, Mr Logan added.

The future of council tax in Scotland is to be examined in a review of local government finance due to take place before 2007.

Mr Kerr has already ruled out full-scale abolition, despite growing opposition to the tax in England (LGC, 23 January ). However, reform of the system south of the border would place pressure on Scotland to follow suit.

Scottish council tax increases

Council Band D rate, 2004-05 % increase on 2003-04

Aberdeen City Council 1107.81 8.6

Aberdeenshire Council 1014 5

Angus Council 985 5.6

Argyll & Bute Council 1075 4

Clackmannanshire Council To be set on 20 February

Dumfries & Galloway Council 964 3.5

Dundee City Council 1135 4.2

East Ayrshire Council 1064.07 4.9

East Dunbartonshire Council 1033 6.9

East Lothian Council 1042.83 5

East Renfrewshire Council 1003 5

City of Edinburgh Council 1083 4

Falkirk Council 951 5

Fife Council 1015 3.5

Glasgow City Council 1185 1.9

Highland Council 1039 5.1

Inverclyde Council 1143 4.9

Midlothian Council 1126 5

Moray Council 996.30 9.8

North Ayrshire Council 1025 4.9

North Lanarkshi re Council 1006 3.5

Orkney Islands Council 940 4.4

Perth & Kinross Council 1037 5.5

Renfrewshire Council 1039 5.2

Scottish Borders Council 985 5.3

Shetland Islands Council 936 7.2

South Ayrshire Council 1012.20 5

South Lanarkshire Council 1005 3.5

Stirling Council 1105 4

West Dunbartonshire Council 1089 1.8

West Lothian Council 1028 4.5

Western Isles 911 5.1

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