The leader of East Renfrewshire Council has defended plans to hit tens of thousands of residents in the pocket as he tries to balance the books.

A three per cent increase in all council tax bands is set to come into force in April.

And the Barrhead News can also reveal that council tenants face a sharp rise in rents as the local authority attempts to plug a gaping hole in its budget.

Under proposals to be considered by councillors at tomorrow’s budget meeting, council tax bills will go up by as much as £85 a year.

If approved, the plans would also see the average weekly rent for a council home jump from £72.80 to over £75 in April before increasing again to more than £78 a year later.

It means the average council tenant faces having to pay an extra £300 a year.

However, council leader Tony Buchanan has stressed that the increases would help to protect public services across the area.

Speaking ahead of the budget meeting, Councillor Buchanan told the Barrhead News: “It’s been the most difficult budget I’ve faced in my time as a councillor.

“Based on what people have told us in our public consultation, there was quite a clear distinction in that people were quite happy with a council tax increase, as much as they could be, if other services were being maintained.

“That’s what we’ve based the budget on.”

Under the proposals, those living in properties in council tax band A will pay £796 over the coming year – up from the current level of £773.

And residents in band H properties will be asked to fork out £2,926 – an increase of £85 a year.

The council received over £3million more in funding from the Scottish Government this year than in 2017.

But, despite being granted a total package of £179m this year, the administration must still save £24m over the next three years.

Cllr Buchanan admits it is a significant challenge.

He said: “The settlement has enabled us to address many of the challenges and it has also meant that we’ve been able to push back some of the challenges that we faced in 2018/19 to future years.

“It enables us a bit more time to work around them and to look at what we can potentially do.”

Cllr Buchanan also insisted that no member of East Renfrewshire Council staff would face compulsory redundancy in the coming year if the budget proposals are approved at tomorrow’s meeting.

However, he is unable to rule out enforced job losses next year.

And the workforce is also set to shrink as some staff who retire or move on are not replaced.

Cllr Buchanan said: “We initially forecasted that the savings would result in a reduction of around 300 jobs over the next three years.

“The money that’s now been found is bringing that down significantly. We would probably be looking at around 260 to 265 but we have to off-set that because we’re creating jobs.

“We’re doing that in childcare, which we would anticipate will create around 200 jobs.”

There will now be no cuts to the roads maintenance budget, despite initial plans to reduce it by £400,000 over the next three years – good news for the many East Renfrewshire motorists who have complained about potholes this winter.

However, the council plans to cut funding for community wardens by £164,000 over the next three years.

During that time, £2.7m will be saved from the Environment Change Programme, £1m from corporate contingency budgets and £738,000 from IT cuts as the council aims to modernise services.