ARGYLL and Bute Council’s depute leader has likened the late offer of more funding to the local authority as being “more akin to Dibley Parish Council”.

Gary Mulvaney made the comparison with the fictional body depicted in the BBC comedy The Vicar Of Dibley as the authority’s members voted in favour of a 10 per cent council tax increase for the 2024-25 financial year.

The Scottish Government made an additional £62.7million available to Scottish local authorities the day before the council met to consider its budget on Thursday, February 22.

But Councillor Mulvaney, the authority’s policy lead for finance and commercial services, said the conditions attached to that extra funding weren’t yet known.

As a result, members of the council’s ruling administration did not factor it into their budget proposals, which were backed by 18 votes to 16.

First Minister Humza Yousaf had pledged at the SNP conference in October that council tax would be frozen across the country in the coming year.

Councillor Mulvaney, a Conservative councillor for the Helensburgh Central ward, told the meeting: “You have heard me speak before about the importance this administration places on funding and prudence. We have faced up to tough decisions in the past, but we are doing it again.

“We have sought to develop a budget in very trying circumstances, as we have to contend with yet another year of cash cuts.

“The Scottish Government response has been to plug its ears, and to ignore COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) and council pleas, and run down the clock.

“Basically, it is carrying on regardless until the 11th hour, when £62million has been found as if by magic.

“But we do not yet know what conditions are attached, so essentially, we cannot take it into account while setting the budget.

“It is more akin to Dibley Parish Council than it is to national partnership work.

“The Scottish Government, in its insistence on a council tax freeze, places councils in an impossible position. Our settlement is simply not enough and that has been the case for years.

“Increasingly, the Scottish Government has ring-fenced what it gives to councils for its own priorities, and that is before we get to the challenges of population and economic growth.

“In fact, our relative share of funding has gone down, because the Scottish Government has reduced its protection of areas that are suffering depopulation, as ours has.”

Turning to the council tax increase, Councillor Mulvaney added: “We have thought long and hard about this [council tax increase] but going along with the ill-thought-out freeze is too risky for today and tomorrow.

“It means that instead we can save services and jobs, and there is virtually no impact on core services and no job losses.

“This delivers three key aspects for Argyll and Bute. It protects services, it helps with the £30m gap in the capital programme, and helps to manage a very challenging budget gap in future years.

“Next year the council tax increase will have brought our deficit down by £3m.

“We must look after this year, but we must also take account of the longer term.

“The opposition budget has all the longevity of an SNP WhatsApp.”

Deputy First Minister Shona Robison said: “Clearly it’s disappointing that the administration of Argyll and Bute Council has chosen to increase council tax.

"It will be for them to explain why they have chosen to ignore the additional funding that I set out for local authorities, and explain why they are increasing the tax by 10 per cent in the middle of a cost of living crisis.

“The funding we offered for the council tax freeze as well as the increased funding offered on Wednesday, is higher than the amount that would have been raised by the level of council tax that the council’s own officials suggested was needed for a balanced budget.

“To date, almost 50 per cent of the population will see their council tax frozen, with 10 councils confirming that they will take forward the freeze, and one more publicly stating its intention to do so.

"This will benefit council tax-payers at a time when the cost of living crisis is putting significant strain on household finances.”