MORE details of Argyll and Bute Council's spending plans for the next financial year have been revealed as the local authority grapples with ever-tightening budgets.

Council tax is set to go up again, in Helensburgh and Lomond and across Argyll and Bute, for the sixth time in the last eight years.

And a report recommends that most fees and charges levied by the council should be increased - by twice the amount that has become the norm in recent years.

But there's a silver lining in Helensburgh to the planned 6 per cent increase - in the form of a freeze in charges for events at the Helensburgh and Lomond Civic Centre.

The details of the planned council tax and spending which will be considered by members of the authority's policy and resources committee next week.

Kirsty Flanagan, the authority's executive director with responsibility for strategic finance, recommends that councillors approve a 4.33 per cent increase in council tax for the 2023-24 financial year - a move which, if approved, would take effect at the beginning of April.

That would mean the owner of a Band D property - the middle of the range - facing a total council tax bill of £1,469.76 for the year - an increase of £61, or £1.17 per week, on the 2022-23 level.

Ms Flanagan's report also asks councillors to approve a 6 per cent increase in most fees and charges - but also lists those services where it's proposed that charges be frozen.

Those exceptions include car parking charges (which are currently the subject of an external review), the price of school meals, and the cost of using public toilets.

Another proposed exception to the 6 per cent increase is the charge levied for events at the Helensburgh and Lomond Civic Centre.

For each year in the last decade, a 3 per cent increase has been approved - except for 2016-17, when councillors backed the same 6 per cent rise proposed this year.

The council's spending plans, and proposed increases in council tax, fees and charges, will be considered by the authority's policy and resources committee on Thursday, February 16 - though no final decisions will be made until a meeting of the full council on February 23.

In her report, Ms Flanagan said: “The assumption throughout the year in respect of council tax was an approval of an increase equivalent to three per cent.

“The setting of council tax should happen on the same day as the council sets its revenue budget as once all proposals are considered, the council tax represents the balance required to balance the budget.

“In order to balance the budget based on the proposals included within this report, the council will need to raise council tax by a further 1.33 per cent to 4.33 per cent. This balances the budget with a gap in future years.”

In relation to fees and charges, which were increased by three per cent every year since 2017/18, Ms Flanagan added: “The general inflationary increase would equate to additional income of £0.838m in 2023/24.

“All other fee increases agreed as part of previous budgets have been accounted for within the base budget or as part of the previously agreed savings amount.”

On school meals being exempt from the proposed inflation, she said: “A six per cent increase in school meal charges could equate to a net increase in income of around £0.050m after adjusting for the expected reduction in meal demand, resulting from the price rise, on income and meal cost levels.

“The expected reduction in demand for meals is based on a demand modelling exercise completed prior to the Covid pandemic, which suggested an increase in charges would encourage children and parents to seek alternative sources of food, leading to a reduction in demand of around 3.7 per cent, equivalent to 21,000 fewer meals per annum.

“Whilst a net increase income of £0.050m would be welcome from a financial perspective, there are non-financial factors which officers have taken into account in their assessment which they consider outweigh the financial benefits to the council from an increase in the school meals charges.”