Tayside and Central Scotland

Council tax cut by 1% in Stirling

Stirling Council HQ
Image caption This was Stirling councillors' second attempt to pass a budget for the coming year

Stirling Council has become the only local authority in Scotland to cut council tax after councillors passed a budget on their second attempt.

The 1% cut, effective from 1 April, will see Band D council tax go down £12 from £1,209 to £1,197 a year.

Labour and Tory councillors voted the measure through in an "alternative" budget, after rejecting the minority SNP administration's proposals.

The SNP group called the cut "fiscally imprudent" and "irresponsible".

Liberal Democrat councillors also voted against the council tax cut, which amounts to a saving of 23p a week for the average household.

The Lib Dem group leader Graham Reed said it was a "cynical" vote-grabber ahead of the council elections on 3 May.

It is the first council to cut its tax rate for four years.

All other local authorities in Scotland have frozen council tax for the coming year as part of an agreement with the Scottish government.

Stirling Council's first meeting to agree a budget on 16 February ended in failure as Labour group councillors voted against their own amendment after accusing the SNP of "stealing" their alternative budget.

Labour was supported in its rejection of the budget by Conservative councillors.

When councillors reconvened for a second attempt to set a budget, an amendment proposed by Labour and backed by the Conservatives again set out an "alternative" budget.

When this amendment was passed it became the substantive motion - and so effectively Stirling Council's budget for 2012/13.

Insults were traded across the floor in an ill-tempered meeting that at one point led to Provost Fergus Wood ordering two councillors - one Conservative and one SNP - to "sit down and shut up, both of you".

Scott Farmer, who proposed the SNP's budget, said his group had made "repeated approaches" to Labour group leader Corrie McChord in an attempt to reach a consensus over the budget.

"He [Mr McChord] could not bring himself to sign up to anything proposed by the SNP," he told the chamber.

"Selling whatever principles he ever had to jump into bed with the Tories - what an insult to his party."

Mr Farmer added that it was "not the time" to be cutting council tax and said Mr McChord should "hang his head in shame".

But the Labour group leader called Mr Farmer's argument "bunkum" and rejected claims that the party's amendment was "imprudent".

"In the last two or three years we have supported cuts in council tax because it had grown more than in other areas of Scotland", he said - adding that his party's proposals on capital spending would bring down council debt and help "balance the books".

Breakfast club cuts

Conservative councillors also bristled at SNP claims that Labour had been forced to "jump into bed" with them, with group leader Alistair Berrill pointing out that the minority administration had previously relied on their backing.

"They were quite happy the last three budgets to accept our support," the Tory councillor said.

"There was no talking about jumping into bed with the devil then."

Lib Dem group leader Mr Reed said he regretted seeing cuts made to services such as breakfast clubs at school and on youth jobs spending.

Referring to the £12 saving for Band D households, he told the chamber: "I personally would give that back to any organisation that would help training and jobs for young people in the community."

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