SHOCK proposals to raise council tax by up to 16 per cent to protect local jobs should be given ‘real consideration’ according to an experienced Inverclyde local government union official.

Unison branch secretary Robin Taggart has spoken out after the extent of the council’s impending cash crisis was laid bare in a grim report last week.

It revealed how the local authority was considering a range of cutbacks and tax hikes to plug a multi-million-pound funding gap.

The report followed the Scottish Government’s announcement of its draft budget for local government just before Christmas, which contained a ‘lower than assumed’ settlement.

READ MORE: Council tax could rise by up to 16 per cent in Inverclyde

The equivalent of 70 full-time posts could be cut in order to realise savings of more than £2.8 million.

Council’s leader Stephen McCabe says the local authority is facing a ‘stark choice’ between accepting the government’s plan for a council tax freeze and cutting services.

Union leader Mr Taggart said: “The general view across councils is that the settlement is far worse than had previously been anticipated.

“There are a number of reasons for this including the fact that the additional funding councils received in return for freezing council tax did not reach the ‘fully funded’ levels that the Scottish Government had promised.

“A number of councils, Including Inverclyde, are now considering whether to increase council tax anyway to avoid cutting jobs and services.

“The current estimated budget gap over two years is £2.4m and this is only if the council raise council tax by 14 per cent over the same period and invest £6m of reserves.

“If the council freeze council tax and there is no additional funding then the budget gap could not be closed even if all of the current budget cut proposals were taken. “

Inverclyde Council is set to meet this Thursday to discuss proposals from officials for a consultation to be held about whether the local authority should accept the freeze and potential job cuts, or increase council tax and reduce the level of losses.

Municipal Buildings bosses also plan to consult the public about whether a two-year or a one-year budget should be set, and what services should be prioritised if cutbacks are required.

Mr Taggart said: “During our discussions with elected members we have stated the need to protect jobs and protect people, including temporary employees.

“Most of the proposed cuts are scalable which means the council can protect employees who do not express an interest in voluntary early retirement by retaining these services even if it means with a small number of fewer employees.

“However, as a trade union we have to be pragmatic which is why, in the absence of any additional funding from the Scottish Government, an increase in council tax in order to protect jobs has to be a real consideration.”