Stirling Council freezes council tax rates as 2021/22 budget is agreed

Stirling Council has approved a suite of targeted financial supports to protect vital services and bolster the council’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The council has announced that council tax rates will be frozen at 2020/21 rates while a revised living wage will be implemented for all council staff at a rate of £9.57 per hour.

Spending plans worth £255 million (revenue & capital) for the financial year ahead were agreed at a special meeting as councillors backed a budget motion to help transform and improve the council’s core services in the coming years.

The council also announced a £422,000 funding allocation for digital investment in education and a combined £675,000 investment to allow vulnerable and elderly people to remain independent and continue to be supported within their own community.

The establishment of a Covid-19 member-officer group to oversee a COVID-19 recovery plan for the entire council and a dedicated focus on implementing the council’s new ten-year Strategy to set balanced budgets in future.

Also included in the plans are three one-off policy spends, totalling £234,000 which will deliver support for some of Stirling’s most vulnerable people.

These include:

  • A £32,000 increase in funding for Stirling Voluntary Enterprise
  • A £150,000 investment in Food Insecurity Initiatives to tackle inequality
  • A £52,000 injection to deliver Dementia-friendly initiatives.

The biggest single capital programme spending will be £4.6m on improving roads and pathways.

Councillor Margaret Brisley, convener of Stirling Council’s Finance and Economy Committee, said: “This is a budget which supports our communities to respond and recover from the challenges of the past 12 months.

“Our budget plans also recognise the need for the council to transform and enhance its services, not just to respond to the drastic changes we’ve seen over the past 12 months, but to help build stronger communities and strengthen the community resilience which has come to the fore in recent times.

“We’ve shown incredible resilience to maintain our core services amidst incredible financial and resource pressure but it’s now time to consider how we implement major changes in a permanent way.”

She added: “A Council Tax freeze will firstly be a welcome relief to all our struggling families across the council area, and the council’s key policy investments in volunteering, tackling food insecurity and making Stirling more dementia-friendly secondly underline our commitment to our most vulnerable.

“Ultimately, however, this budget is one which will set the council on a new course towards transformation to tackle an estimated funding gap of £28m from 2021-22 to 2025/26, planning for which will begin immediately.”

Councillor Alison Laurie, vice convener of Finance and Economy, added: “I’m pleased to pass a budget which is people-focused, and meets the requests of those who responded to the Big Budget Conversation by protecting vital services and investing in local organisations which care for our most vulnerable.

“However, there is an equally stark message to our communities for the years ahead. Funding for local government fluctuates, and it is not possible to maintain the same service levels we have without changing what we do, or considering reducing our spending or increasing charges for services.

“We’ve been signalling this pressure for a while but it’s important our citizens realise the financial reality that the council faces in the years ahead and the feedback from and engagement with our citizens will be vital to help us navigate these challenges.”

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