Council tax blunder could cost £4miliion

Council leader Rhondda Geekie
Council leader Rhondda Geekie

A plea by council chiefs for financial help following a £4million council tax blunder has been knocked back by the Scottish Government.

The cash-strapped local authority is facing having to pay out the lump sum as almost 1,000 householders in Bishopbriggs South may have been overcharged council tax for 20 years after an error with valuation bands.

Although the council is not responsible for setting the bands they collect the money and are liable for any rebate to residents.

The potential financial liability to the council could be as high as £4million.

Finding this extra cash could affect services. However, council leader Rhondda Geekie said it won’t impact on frontline services.

Councillor Geekie wrote to John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, asking what financial assistance the Scottish Government could offer.

However, Mr Swinney replied to say they would be unable to help the council.

In a letter he said: “Local authorities are independent corporate bodies whose powers and duties in respect of council tax are set out in statute and Scottish Government ministers are unable to intervene in individual cases.

“Clearly responsibility for council tax banding lies elsewhere so I regret, therefore, that I am unable to offer you any financial assistance with the problem your council may face.”

Councillor Geekie said: “It is deeply regrettable that the Scottish Government has chosen not to to provide financial assistance for this unique and significant financial burden.

“These are unprecedented times in local government, with the council having to make significant savings in 2014/15 and beyond.

“Through no fault of this authority we are now facing an additional financial liability in relation to council tax rebanding. Officers are continuing to work with the assessors team at the Valuation Joint Board.

“At this time there is still some uncertainty around the total payable in back-dates, but as the assessors team complete house surveys this is becoming clearer.”

She added: “It is anticipated that reserves and contingencies will be able to meet this unique one-off pressure which will avoid any impact on front-line services.

“However, it is deeply disappointing that the Scottish Government has chosen not to heed our request for one-off assistance particularly when this council is working so hard to achieve already onerous financial savings.”

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