COUNCIL tax rates are set to be frozen today (Thursday) as Fife takes advantage of Scottish Government promises to pay the difference.

In January, finance secretary Kate Forbes announced a £90 million fund that will give councils the equivalent of the income from a three per cent rise in council tax if they choose to freeze rates for 2021/22.

It means the council can enjoy the benefits of an increase without passing the costs on to householders who may have experienced financial hardship during the pandemic.

Council tax and rent rises are normally agreed during a wider budget meeting. However, Fife pushed the bulk of its financial discussions back to March 11 amid uncertainty of what the UK and Scottish budgets – on March 3 and 9 respectively – could mean for the region.

Council co-leader, Councillor David Alexander, said freezing the council tax makes “total sense” at a time when people are struggling with household bills and other issues.

“The Scottish Government has announced in the draft budget that our grant is going to increase,” he said. “It will increase further if we agree to freeze the council tax so the freezing of the tax will not impact budgets.

“I am equally sure that the £90m distributed amongst local authorities to make this happen will be mainstreamed next year so there isn’t a negative impact. This has been the case in previous funding decisions. It is very positive for Fife.”

Fellow co-leader Councillor David Ross said: “I recognise that many people are struggling financially due to the pandemic and I am pleased that we are proposing to freeze the council tax this year. However at present the Scottish Government are only giving the council additional money for one year to cover the cost of freezing the council tax.

"Unless this is baselined and added to our grant for future years, it will mean we may have to put the council tax up by double the amount next year or make more cuts to services. We are lobbying hard through COSLA for this money to be made a permanent grant increase instead of for only one year.”

A 1.5 per cent rise for council tenants, covering both rent and service charges is also set to be approved. Average weekly rents will rise from £75.45 to £76.58.

Councillors are due to agree both decisions at today’s full council meeting.