Local authorities across Scotland have spoken out against plans by First Minister Humza Yousaf to freeze council tax bills - but North Ayrshire is currently remaining tight-lipped.

While many councils have warned they may be underfunded as a result of the move, SNP-run North Ayrshire is keeping its cards close to its chest.

Mr Yousaf announced at the SNP's conference in Aberdeen earlier this month that there will be no rise in council tax at any Scottish local authority when budgets are set in the new year.

That sparked a furious response from local government umbrella body COSLA (the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) - despite Mr Yousaf's insistence later that the freeze will be fully funded.

A COSLA spokesperson said: “The announcement of a council tax freeze was made completely without reference to local government and there is no agreement to freeze council tax next year.

“The decision to freeze council tax is one which can only be made by councils.

“We deplore the way the announcement was made and its substance, both of which fly in the face of the Verity House Agreement which we all recently signed.

“It has been shown that previous council tax freezes have been regressive, having no impact for the poorest in society and eroding the council tax base, compounding councils’ ongoing underfunding.

“We will explore the implications arising and what the Scottish Government might propose – but we are clear that local taxation, and particularly council tax, should be left for democratically elected councils to determine.”

A spokesperson for North Ayrshire Council said: "We don't think it's appropriate for us to offer a comment at the moment."

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: North Ayrshire's Cunninghame House HQNorth Ayrshire's Cunninghame House HQ (Image: NAC)

Meanwhile, people from across North Ayrshire are being given an opportunity to have their say on council spending as the battle to balance the budget in March intensifies.

The gauntlet has been thrown down by  the council who are inviting people to set their own budget online.

As part of preparations for setting the 2024-25 budget, the council is asking residents to take the online ‘Budget Challenge’ which allows them to set their own ‘virtual budget’ and decide how they would allocate cash.

The challenge gives residents the chance to raise or reduce budgets for each council service and see the consequences of their decisions in real time.

The tool has launched online this week at  https://budgetchallenge.north-ayrshire.gov.uk/
NAC is currently facing a funding shortfall of up to £16.8 million for 2024-25.

This is assuming the potential council tax freeze is fully funded and on top of making savings of more than £118m over the previous 12 years.

Councillor Christina Larsen, cabinet member for finance and procurement, said: “Following on from the covid pandemic and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, no one has escaped the financial impact, including the council.

“It’s vital that we continue to protect our services as much as we can and that’s why it’s important to know our residents’ priorities.

“The online ‘Budget Challenge’ will allow our residents to set their own virtual council budget, increasing or decreasing money available for the different services we provide.

“In turn, this allows people to see the consequences of their decisions by describing what the impact of reducing or increasing a specific budget will be.

“I would encourage as many people as possible to take part as the results will help inform elected members when we consider the 2024/25 budget early next year.”

Although the Budget Challenge is online, those without digital access can still take part. Either head to your local library or call the council’s customer services team on 01294 310000.