The leader of East Renfrewshire Council has defended its decision to make millions of pounds worth of cuts and hit residents with higher bills.

As revealed by the Barrhead News earlier today, council tax is to rise by 6% and more than £4m is being trimmed from public services as the local authority tries to cope with a funding crisis.

The moves were confirmed at the council's budget meeting this afternoon, with plans to axe up to 50 jobs in the coming year also approved.

However, Councillor Owen O’Donnell has laid the blame at the Scottish Government's door, insisting it has failed to provide enough cash to protect services.

“The unfair local government settlement will have severe and far-reaching consequences on council budgets," he said.

"We have had to take very difficult decisions on what savings to make and on increasing council tax but have closed our budget gap and balanced the books."

The council tax hike means those living in a Band D property will see their annual bill rise by £80.

Councillor O'Donnell has pledged there will be fewer than 50 jobs lost at the local authority during 2023/24 and there will be no compulsory redundancies.

"Despite the very real financial challenges faced by this council, our priorities will continue to be supporting the most vulnerable people in our communities," added the council leader.

"I remain optimistic and determined that we will be able to build a better future for all our residents.”

The council tax increase and use of reserves means a total of £4.1m of savings will be needed for 2023/24, although some savings proposed at today's meeting were not approved.

Councillor O’Donnell highlighted the results of a public consultation staged ahead of the local authority making decisions on how to tackle its £18m budget gap.

He said: "More than 1,700 people shared their views with us as part of our budget engagement process – the biggest response we’ve ever had to an exercise like this in the council’s history.

"Many people told us they were prepared to pay a little bit more in council tax so long as vital services are protected – and we have delivered on that.

"I am delighted that, as well as removing the proposed saving impacting our additional support needs pupils, we have also added £60,000 of new investment to support our most vulnerable children with complex needs.

"This year, we have also protected teacher numbers, Pupil Support Assistant numbers and the length of the school week.”

The grant settlement received by the council from the Scottish Government for 2023/24 was just over £223m.

Councillor O’Donnell said that, after ring-fenced funding for national initiatives and a bigger rates bill for council buildings are taken into account, the local authority has been left with just a 0.4% increase on a like-for-like basis compared to last year’s settlement.

He also outlined the capital projects the council has delivered and announced a five-year fund – starting in 2024/25 and worth £3.5m per year – to improve the condition of residential roads in the local area.

“Spiralling inflation and soaring energy costs have combined to cause genuine hardship for many of our residents and they have rightly looked to their local council for support," added Councillor O’Donnell.

"I am immensely proud that we have been able to provide practical support, putting money in their pockets to help with food bills.

"This cost-of-living package, which was funded by Covid-recovery money from the Scottish Government, also supported the creation of a network of Warm and Welcome Spaces.

"We will continue to support those most in need and continue to plan for the future, building more new schools and council houses, caring for older people and delivering on the issues which matter most to our residents.”

The SNP opposition proposed an alternative budget but, following a vote, the Labour/Independent administration’s plans were approved and will now be taken forward by the council.