NORTH Ayrshire Labour’s ‘radical’ plans to accelerate the rise of Council Tax were firmly denied by both the SNP and Conservatives at last week’s budget meeting at Cunninghame House.

Cllr Joe Cullinane and his Labour colleagues sprung the proposal on the rest of the council, which would have meant a 12.5 per cent rise in Council Tax and the extra money raised would have been used for programmes such as youth mental health, expanding breakfast clubs and doubling the school clothing grant as well as a hardship fund for those who would be unable to afford the rise.

But the SNP and Conservatives had no intention whatsoever of agreeing to the rise, calling it ludicrous and disconnected.

In a unprecedented move, the Labour group moved their motion, which was met with shock and disbelief by rival councillors, before the Conservatives and the SNP moved amendments of their own.

Speaking after the meeting, North Ayrshire Council’s Leader, Joe Cullinane, said: “I think I know we are more bold and radical than others in the chamber. So, when you look at the proposal that we put forward it was about making sure we did comply with the Scottish governments proposal and you heard from the SNP that they are planning to raise Council Tax by 3 per cent each year but with the hardship fund put in place, we were talking about a proposal where the lowest income households would have been protected and only 40 per cent of the accelarated increase would have been charged and a as a result, you could look at the clothing grants, the breakfast clubs, youth mental health, more apprenticeships, support for young people going into employment, additional support for the health and social care partnership which the SNP have just voted to reduce, corporate parenting fund.

“Really this is stuff we need to be doing as a Council with one in three children living in poverty and yet we get a motion that is tabled later in the ordinary council meeting that is asking us to tackle child poverty.

“So the next time people ask why North Ayrshire has the lowest clothing grant in Scotland, the people should direct that question to the SNP and Tories and ask why they voted for that to be the case.”

But the SNP and Conservatives lambasted Labour’s move and SNP Group Leader Marie Burns said, “I was disappointed in the Council Leader’s actions. He has had months to discuss proposals with other councillors with a view to forming a consensus. Instead he has refused to include anyone else in the process before complaining that, during the budget meeting, no-one approached him to reach an understanding. Labour should understand that they are very much a minority administration and it is for them to reach out.

“This approach has included refusing to discuss the proposed joint project with Ayrshire College. Our understanding is that the amount offered to support the project will come nowhere near to the amount required. Given that the project will support our young people in gaining the skills they require to gain employment it goes down as an opportunity lost.

“Overall I have to be happy that the SNP gained support for our amendments to the budget and that we were successful in gaining the support of other councillors. Labour’s refusal to engage with the chamber when their ridiculous plans to raise council tax by 12.5 per cent were appalling but all too predictable. They should consider their position.”

The SNP amendment passed through after they defeated the Conservatives support for the officer’s budget after they had voted together to stop Labour’s tax rise plans.

The amendment saw head office education posts reduced in favour of front line staff and a slight reduction to the the already planned increase in money to the Health and Social Care partnership, something Labour voted with then at a re-vote decided to vote against as they said they had not realised the cuts to the Health and Social Care Partnership were included.

Depute Leader of the Conservative Group, Todd Ferguson remarked: “The proposal from the Labour Administration to increase Council Tax by 12.5 per cent is absolutely ludicrous. At a time when the SNP, propped up by their Green support act, are making Scotland the highest taxed part of the United Kingdom I would have thought that the supposedly ‘socially conscious’ Labour Party would have understood that the people of North Ayrshire are being driven into the ground by continuous rises to taxation.

“The North Ayrshire Conservative and Unionist Group were fully supportive of the Officer’s Budget as it was presented. Our Group has spent many weeks going through the budget line by line and have had numerous briefings and meetings with the NAC Executive Directors who have diligently answered all our questions and concerns relating to North Ayrshire Council Budgets, especially considering continuing SNP cuts to North Ayrshire Council. The Executive Directors professionalism and expertise provided clarity over which SNP enforced cuts will have the least damaging impact on the people of North Ayrshire. Having presented a balanced budget, under extremely difficult financial constraints, the Conservative and Unionist Group were happy to support the officers’ recommendations for 2018/19 without any further amendment.”