THE council is in an 'unprecedented' position of being unable to set Inverclyde's budget for this year.

A delay by the UK Government setting out its tax and spending plans for the next 12 months has had a knock-on effect for local authorities.

Chancellor Sajid Javid has announced that he will deliver his first budget and that of the new government on March 11 - the day in which Scottish councils must legally set theirs.

As it stands, local authorities cannot agree a spending strategy for the 2020/21 financial year before that date because they do not know how much money they are getting from the Scottish Government - as Holyrood ministers are in the dark about the size of the block grant they will get from Westminster.

Inverclyde Council intends to press ahead with setting council tax rates for the next 12 months - a key element of the budget process - having sought legal advice over the matter.

But local authority leader Stephen McCabe says their hands are tied with everything else and emergency measures are being put in place to ensure the continuation of services should there be any further delays.

Councillor McCabe said: "The council's current plan is to set the level of council tax on February 20 and set the budget on March 12, however, this is predicated on us having the relevant information we need from the Scottish Government in terms of our financial settlement for 2020/21. "The Scottish Government has already delayed its budget process because of the UK election. "Now that the UK Government has set a budget date I would expect the Scottish Government to now publish its revised budget timetable. "Once we know that we can revise our plans accordingly.

"There have been ongoing discussions between Cosla and the Scottish Government over contingency plans should the Scottish Government not be able to provide councils with their financial settlements before the start of the new financial year on April 1. "This situation is unprecedented so at this time I don't know when we will set our budget."

Scotland's finance secretary, Derek Mackay, says a date for his government's tax and spending plans will be announced 'in due course', adding that his Westminster counterparts have shown 'complete disrespect' to the Holyrood parliament in their handling of the process.

In response, the Treasury said 'nothing stops' the Scottish Parliament from setting a budget.

In recent times, the UK budget has been included in the autumn statement nearer the end of the year.

That was supposed to take place on November 6 but was cancelled because of the snap general election last month.

The Scottish Government's budget plans were due to be announced on December 12 but they too were put on hold.