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COUNCIL TAX SET TO SOAR; Crippling hike is blasted.

Byline: KRISSY STORRAR

COUNCIL tax bills in Scotland will rocket next year - with some families facing a staggering nine per cent rise.

The crippling hike means the average family in a Band D property will have to fork out pounds 1,001-a-year.

Most of the 32 local authorities unveiled their new council tax levels yesterday.

Some were the equivalent of a staggering two pence rise in income tax. The average rise was four per cent, but some councils upped their bills by more than nine per cent.

The biggest increase was 9.2 per cent in Orkney, where people living in Band D properties will now have to pay pounds 900-a-year.

The Borders Council unveiled a rise of 8.2 per cent and residents in Shetland will be charged an additional 7.8 per cent.

But the highest council tax will be in Glasgow where, despite a rise of just 1.9 per cent, the Band D bill will go up to pounds 1,163.

People living in Band H houses in the city will fork out pounds 2,326-a-year.

Edinburgh City Council - which used to charge the highest rate in Scotland - set its Band D level at pounds 1,041, an increase of four per cent.

The council is planning to spend a record pounds 70million on public services.

But yesterday SNP and Tory politicans blasted the across-the-board increases in council tax.

SNP shadow local government minister Tricia Marwick MSP said: "Council tax is higher now than it was in 1997, but it is clear that people are paying more and getting less.

"The increase in council tax is the equivalent of two pence on income tax."

The Tories branded the hikes as "the annual kick-in-the-teeth" for taxpayers.

Tory local government spokesman Keith Harding MSP said: "The public should not have to put up with higher and higher bills when there is no tangible improvement in the service they receive - indeed, all too often, it is worse.

"These rises come about because of the control-freakery of the Scottish Government.

"Far too much of the funding they receive from the centre is government directed to the extent that when the ring-fencing is stripped out, there is a funding black hole."

Every council in Scotland announced an increase in taxes.

The lowest rise for Band D properties - the middle band - was in Dundee where bills went up by just 0.93 per cent. But many other councils introduced inflation-busting hikes of around five per cent.

The increases in Falkirk, Aberdeenshire, North Ayrshire, Highland, Stirling, East Dunbartonshire and Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar were all five per cent or more.

Aberdeenshire put its charge up by 4.8 per cent, in East Ayrshire it rose by 4.9 per cent and East Lothian increased its by four per cent.
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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Feb 14, 2003
Words:466
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