Scotland

Freezers and risers: Decoding council tax

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So, for the first time in a decade, journalists can write a story about the most interesting part of the complicated world of local government finance - whether the council tax is going up.

The last of Scotland's 32 councils, South Ayrshire, decided what to do on Thursday morning. Bills there will rise by 3%.

But, as I have been predicting since December, several councils chose to forego a rise.

Eight councils - all with Labour leaders - are voluntarily freezing the basic rate of council tax in a move which is not without its risks.

Any council which voluntarily foregoes some income may find it hard to say it is not getting enough government money - an argument used by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Holyrood.

It may also leave a council open to claims from local campaigners that is not doing all it can to mitigate cuts and savings.

A further three councils - all with the SNP in the driving seat - have opted for rises of less than 3%.

Twenty-one councils - including others led by Labour and the SNP - decided to go for full 3% rises. The average bill will rise by no more than £3-4 a month.

The most expensive council tax is in Glasgow while the least expensive is in the Western Isles. The difference in Band D bills between the two areas is £194 a year.

But, of course, around a quarter of people face far more significant increases regardless of local decisions because of national changes to how bills are calculated which have been made by the Scottish government.

The elephant in the room is May's council elections. National polls suggest Labour could find it hard to retain some of its councils although locally some senior Labour figures seem more confident.

So will local council tax freezes actually prove popular despite the concerns some have expressed?

And how might voters react in those areas where they are being asked to pay more even though there will still be cuts and savings?

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