COUNCILLORS will today set the Inverclyde Council budget for the next financial year.

Leader Stephen McCabe has already announced there will be no increase in the council tax, despite the Scottish Government lifting its nine-year freeze and allowing a rise of up to three per cent.

But for around 7,000 households on the four highest bands, the levy will increase by between 7.5 and 22.5 per cent from April as decided by the government.

Councillor McCabe will put forward spending plans to improve Inverclyde’s town centres, boost employment, tackle poverty and build a new indoor tennis facility plus a three-year £86m investment blueprint including £37m for new and refurbished schools.

The proposals have already been backed by a cross-party budget working group representing 14 of Inverclyde’s 20 elected members.

SNP council group leader Chris McEleny, who removed himself from the group, says he was willing to support the plans – but only if outstanding equal pay claims were settled by the local authority and £1m set aside for any future disputes.

Cllr McEleny said: “It is disappointing that our genuine offer to help secure a budget deal has been snubbed.

“We believed that £1m to augment the existing equal pay fund was a sensible measure.”

Ahead of today’s budget meeting, councillors have agreed to make no cuts to jobs or services in 2017/18 so that the newly elected-council in May can set the spending agenda for the coming years.

Reserves will be used to plug the current funding gap, which is nearly £5m over the next 12 months following a cash reduction from the Scottish Government.

Labour’s west of Scotland MSP Neil Bibby voted against the SNP Holyrood budget a fortnight ago and said: “While I hope Inverclyde Council can mitigate the worst consequences of a harsh budget, the truth is the council and the people it serves have already been ripped off for too long.

"Enough is enough.”