Every month East Renfrewshire Council's leader, Jim Fletcher, shares his thoughts on current events which will have an impact on the community with The News.

  • Barrhead residents may be aware that houses in council tax bandings E-H will be paying significantly more council tax next year.

These increases are increases imposed by Scottish Government, not East Renfrewshire Council and that is why we have written to residents facing this increase, both to warn them about the impending rise, but also to explain the background to the rise.

There is considerable anger in Scottish Local Government about the Scottish Government using council tax increases as a way of funding their own pet projects, rather than using their newly acquired income tax raising powers. After all, what is the point of demanding more powers be devolved from Westminster to Holyrood, if you are not prepared to use these new powers?

A cynic may suspect that the Scottish Government does not wish to raise income tax because it may be unpopular with voters and is forcing councils to raise council tax in the hope that councillors rather than ministers get the blame for the higher bills.

It is also telling that Scottish Government refuses to conduct a revaluation of properties in Scotland. The last revaluation of Scottish properties was over thirty years ago and the changes to housing (eg modernisations and extensions) during this period mean that many people will live in houses that are not accurately banded for council tax purposes.

  • I was disappointed to hear Derek McKay the Finance Minister tell the media that councils in Scotland are getting a good settlement.

The reality is quite different. Councils in Scotland face a £327million cut to their grant this year and the “additional money” used to partly plug the funding gap, is money raised by taxpayers who will be paying higher council tax bills and not money given to councils by Scottish Government.

In our own East Renfrewshire area, despite the changes to the council tax bandings, which will deliver an additional £4.1 million pounds of income to us, with the reduction in grant from Scottish Government, we still face a £2.1 million black hole in our budget.

One very positive matter that recently came to light delighted me. It was the results from our independently conducted Citizen`s Panel Survey which gave the East Renfrewshire Council the best ratings it has had for over five years.

I would encourage Barrhead residents to read the full results of the survey.

It shows that we have managed the funding challenges over the years very well and by continually slimming down the council and working more efficiently, we have protected front line services very well.

Successfully managing year on year budget cuts, coupled with ever increasing demographic demand for services as we all grow older, is essential.

It is however an essential task, to preserve the quality of life for all our local residents. Local people can rest assured we will do our level best to manage the further £2.1 million cut to our budget this year and continue to protect critical front line council services that are so vital to us all.