THE leader of Inverclyde Council has accused the Scottish Government of trying to ‘bully’ local authorities into freezing council tax in what he described as a 'democratic outrage'.

The local authority is set to meet on February 29 to set its budget and council tax levels for 2024/25, but it has emerged that the government had given Municipal Buildings chiefs a deadline of no later than today to go along with the freeze.

The ultimatum was given in a letter to councils from the deputy first minister and finance secretary Shona Robison.

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

Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe told the Telegraph that he could not confirm whether the local authority would be implementing a freeze.

He said: “Discussions are ongoing between the political groups so at this time I am unable to say whether we will freeze council tax or not.

“We will also consider the feedback from our public consultation, which has just closed, and the outcome of our voluntary severance trawl of staff in those areas identified for cuts before reaching a decision.

“Clearly there was an implied threat in the Deputy First Minister’s letter that if councils did not let her know by February 16 their intentions, she would withdraw any offer of funding.

“This was designed to pressure councils into agreeing the freeze.”

If Inverclyde Council elects to raise council tax, it will not receive its share of the money that the Scottish Government has put aside to fund the freeze.

In Inverclyde’s case this would mean losing out on £1.9m of additional funding.

Mr McCabe added that COSLA – the body which represents Scottish councils – had received assurance from Ms Robison that councils who notify her after the deadline that they are freezing council tax will still receive their allocated funding.

He said: “The Scottish Government’s whole approach to the budget has been a democratic outrage.

“They are trying to bully councils into freezing council tax with the threat of financial sanctions.

“They promised to fully fund the council tax freeze and they haven’t.

“They promised to negotiate the freeze with COSLA but there have been no negotiations.

“They have simply presented councils with a take it or leave it offer.

“COSLA has offered a perfectly reasonable compromise of a council tax cap of five per cent, in return for the allocation of the £147m to councils without the need for a freeze.

“This would allow any councils that support a freeze to implement one and other councils to increase their council tax by up to five per cent, which would go along way to reducing the need for cuts.

“Unfortunately, the Scottish Government has so far rejected this offer from COSLA and seems determined to press ahead with a regressive and financially irresponsible council tax freeze irrespective of the consequences for councils’ jobs and services.”

Inverclyde Council is set to consider a range of options at their crunch budget meeting later this month, including implementing a tax freeze.

However, councillors could also opt to raise council tax by up to nine per cent and are considering a range of cutbacks that may have to be taken to plug any remaining budget shortfalls.