COUNCIL tax rates will be frozen in Inverclyde for the next year after elected members voted unanimously to access extra funding offered up by the Scottish Government.

Leader Stephen McCabe said he 'reluctantly' tabled a motion to keep bills static, as he slammed ministers for 'undermining' the role of local authorities to set their own tax levels.

It means the annual Band D bill - used as the general measure of council tax - will remain at £1,331.

Finance secretary Kate Forbes offered to hand councils an extra £90m in funding in her draft budget last month, providing they froze council tax for 2021/22.

Inverclyde Council will now have access to £1.2m from that pot.

The news will come as a comfort to some families who have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, but Councillor McCabe insisted there were better ways to support families who were struggling with money.

He said: "I don't oppose a freeze in principle.

"What I do oppose is a freeze that is being centrally imposed.

"Why is there no outcry when the government fundamentally undermines the role of councils to set their own council tax?

"Around a quarter of houses in Inverclyde will receive no benefit and council tax may need to increase by more next year to compensate.

"Unfortunately we have seen how council tax has been used as a political football every year since 2007.

"If the Scottish Government really wants to help hard-pressed families then there are better ways of doing it than a council tax freeze."

Councillor McCabe had previously branded the offer of extra money by the Scottish Government a 'pre-election bribe.

But during the meeting, SNP group leader Elizabeth Robertson said: "We know families have been struggling and we know putting money into people’s pockets is the best way to relieve poverty.

"I can't speak for the Scottish Government but, when the pandemic is wreaking havoc, the fact that this happens to be near an election is somewhat irrelevant."

The local authority's estimated funding gap now sits at £859,000 for 2021/22 and £5.6m for 2022/23, with the council due to set its budget for the coming year on March 18.

The £1.198m council tax freeze grant will come on top of the council's baseline settlement of £180m - up from £177m in 2020/21.

Inverclyde Council and the Convention for Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) is working to establish whether the council tax freeze grant will effectively recur as part of the baseline allocation in future years.

Cllr McCabe added that while Inverclyde's settlement was better than in previous years, he still believed it wasn't good enough.

He said: "The draft budget settlement for local government announced by the cabinet secretary for finance was, to put it mildly, disappointing.

"Just because it isn’t as bad as in prior years doesn’t make it a good or fair settlement.

"For revenue, the overall cash increase for core services falls £362m short of what COSLA asked for on behalf of all its representative political groups.

"The current grant settlement from the Scottish Government represents another real-terms reduction in our funding that will ultimately lead to further cuts in jobs and services in the years ahead."

Mr McCabe has written to UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Ms Forbes seeking further support for councils ahead of the Scottish Government budget being agreed on March 10.

He said: “I am calling on both the Scottish and UK Government’s to recognise the unprecedented challenges facing local councils and our communities by providing further recurring funding in 2021/22.

“If councils don’t receive a fair funding settlement in the coming year much of the good work we have been seeing here in Inverclyde and across the country by councils will be undone."

COUNCIL TAX 2021/22 (not including water and sewage charges):

Band A £887.89

Band B £1,035.88

Band C £1,183.86

Band D £1,331.84

Band E £1,749.89

Band F £2,164.24

Band G £2,608.19

Band H £3,263.01