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Issued: 20 January 2004

Angus Set To Maintain Low Council Tax Position

Council leader Rob Murray is confident that Angus will still have one of the lowest levels of council tax in Scotland in 2004/05.

Speaking as council departments reach the final stages of their budget discussions, Councillor Murray said the council was aiming to balance the cost of providing the services people want with as low a council tax increase as possible.

“Anything extra paid in council tax contributes directly to the maintenance or improvement of local services and infrastructure,” said Councillor Murray. “But it is incredibly frustrating that, in the absence of a realistic government grant, the only way Scottish local authorities can deliver these services is through council tax increases and cuts in departmental budgets.

“Angus is not a high spending council, past performance shows that we make every pound work hard for us. Last year the £1 a week council tax increase made it possible for the council to make substantial investment across the county, from hall improvements in Montrose and Forfar to a massive programme of road repairs.

“Added to that, the promised modernisation and extension of Inverkeilor Primary School is now complete as are the extension to the Forties Road Industrial Estate and the Carnoustie coastal protection works. The restoration of Montrose’s Mid Links is now underway and commuters and businesses saw the long awaited dualling of the A92 between Arbroath and Dundee finally start last September.

“This type of investment is essential if Scotland is to have a reliable roads network, schools fit for our young people and communities we want to live, work in and visit but it’s not a burden local tax payers should have to shoulder year on year.

“In Angus we've only got £2.58M, a mere 1.8% more than last year’s grant to work with, which won’t even cover the increase in costs of core services. The remaining £6.77M, some 70% of the government’s grant increase, is earmarked for their own schemes so can’t be used for locally identified priorities.

“This is now an annual argument between local councils and the executive and people are tired of it. What is needed is a fundamental overhaul of local government finance - it is long overdue and Scottish councils are calling for it. Local authorities can’t keep shaving already overstretched budgets and also maintain services and council taxpayers shouldn’t be expected to pick up the tab year on year.”