INVERCLYDE'S council tax will be frozen for the next two years under a new budget agreed yesterday.

And there will be a �23 million boost for leisure across Inverclyde.

This includes nearly �10.9m for a new multi-use leisure facility at Rankin Park, �1.7m to replace Ravenscraig Stadium, �2.8m to upgrade Gourock Pool and �2.8m for a new ground for Port Glasgow Juniors.

There will also be a new changing pavilion at Parklea, an upgrade for Gourock Park and improvements for football pitches.

Council leader Stephen McCabe said: 'I"m delighted to announce exciting proposals delivering new and refurbished leisure facilities in communities across Inverclyde.' A total of 153 full-time jobs will be affected under "efficiency" savings of �3.3m in 2009/10 and �6.7m in 2010/11 voted through in the Labour/Tory/Independent coalition budget.

A number of the jobs will be lost through "natural wastage" and unfilled vacancies. Other staff may be redeployed.

Councillor McCabe pledged: 'As far as is practicable, there will be no requirement for compulsory redundancies over the next two years.' SNP councillor Chris Osborne criticised a doubling of fees for playschemes, and a 7.5 per cent rise in charges to empty shops" bins, which he said would impact on small businesses.

SNP leader Keith Brooks said �50,000 should be spent on family sports passes and �40,000 on free gym use for the over-60s.

Labour"s Jim Clocherty criticised the SNP for wanting to close the Gourock Kirn Drive civic amenity site.

Liberal Democrat leader Alan Blair called for �60,000 to be saved by axing two of the three members of the council"s communications team, which he said served the council rather than the public.

He also wanted �1.5m to tackle flooding, �100,000 to upgrade the Broomhill/Drumfrochar Road area, the same amount for a new youth fund and �500,000 for a community investment fund.

Councillor McCabe said: 'No-one should be under any illusion about the scale of the challenge faced by the council or the tough choices that members have had to make to find savings representing almost five per cent of the council"s net operating budget.' The trade union Unison said it was disappointed with the job losses.

Unions are also worried an estimated 700 lower-paid and part-time employees, who are not in the local government pension scheme, will lose out through the abolition of the council"s Group Life Assurance Scheme, which guaranteed a year"s pay for those who die in service.