A THREE per cent hike in council tax bills for tens of thousands of East Renfrewshire residents was rubber-stamped this afternoon.

The move, which will see bills rising by up to £85 a year, was approved at East Renfrewshire Council's budget meeting.

And there will be more financial pain to follow, with further three per cent increases approved for 2019/20 and 2020/21.

Councillors had been due to vote on the budget plans yesterday but the meeting was postponed due to the severe weather that has battered the Barrhead area.

The council tax increase is part of a three-year programme which the local authority has said aims to "protect frontline services, jobs and the area’s most vulnerable residents."

As part of the budget, £250,000 has been set aside to invest in new laptops and tablet devices for local schools.

In addition, a Reading Recovery scheme put in place last year to support pupils having difficulty will be extended for a further year and an additional £150,000 has been committed to making improvements to mixed tenure properties.

Councillor Tony Buchanan, leader of East Renfrewshire Council, said: “We continue to face increased pressures linked to our rising elderly population and growing younger population, which places a high demand on both our schools and social care services.

"New legislation such as recycling targets, landfill tax and welfare reform also need to be considered when planning how best to deliver services in the future.

"So, whilst raising council tax was a tough choice, it was one that had to be made in order to protect the services most valued by residents.

"Our ambition to deliver the very best for our residents is highlighted through our series of investments in the first year of this budget process, which will enhance the services we deliver.

"We have also listened to our residents and amended savings proposals to reflect their feedback as we try to minimise the impact of the changes which require to be made in the way in which we deliver services.”

The council carried out an extensive budget consultation exercise last year, giving residents the opportunity to have their say on the savings options available – totalling £28million.

Council chiefs say the three-year savings estimate is now £20.3m, as the budget settlement from the Scottish Government was better than originally estimated and councillors agreed to reduce required savings by using £1.5m of reserves in each of the next three years.

The local authority has also made a commitment that no compulsory redundancies will be required in the coming financial year.

And an investment of around £183m will be made in capital infrastructure projects over the next eight years in a bid to drive growth and create jobs.

Councillor Buchanan added: “With the reduction of our savings target, we have been able to remove some of the most difficult savings options from the table.

"This includes minimising the reduction in budgets devolved to headteachers and maintaining the roads budget at £4m for the coming years – two of the main issues highlighted during the public consultation.

"In addition, due to the council’s sound long-term financial planning, we currently have a healthy level of reserves and, by utilising these, it has allowed us to further offset the impact of savings.

"We have also chosen to leave a slight shortfall in the final year of less than £2m – which is less than one per cent of our overall budget. This will allow us to reassess the situation next year, when there will be a clearer funding picture available from the Scottish Government, as we believe it is better to leave this slight gap rather than commit to savings which might ultimately not need to be made.

"Taking these steps also reduces the savings target to £20.3m – some £7.7m less than had initially been anticipated.”