COUNCIL chiefs have defended their decision to impose a rise in council tax for the first time in a decade, saying it will help them to invest in the services people want.

In an exclusive interview with The Gazette, Renfrewshire Council leader Iain Nicolson revealed the SNP minority administration would be proposing a three per cent hike in council tax rates.

This will generate an extra £2.1million, which Cllr Nicolson said will be used to deliver change within communities and services which have been “starved of cash.”

Council tax has been frozen for the past 10 years in Renfrewshire for band A to D homes and this has been supported by an annually-increasing Scottish Government grant.

However, this has now stopped increasing, leaving councils having to make up the loss through a rise across all bands.

Properties in bands E to H saw their council tax go up last year in a move which was imposed by the Scottish Government, meaning council tax for some homes will have gone up by more than 20 per cent in the past two years.

But councillors are hoping the public will see tangible changes in services following the hike.

Cllr Nicolson said: “We’re proposing a three per cent rise. I haven’t seen a council yet that hasn’t proposed that.

“I think the public have come to a point of acceptance because it hasn’t gone up for 10 years.

“It will mean we can invest in areas people are saying are important to them.

“We wouldn’t be able to invest lots of money into street cleaning and roads if we didn’t have the income to do it, so we hope that, if the rise is approved, people will begin to see a lot of council services are visible.”

The rise will be proposed at the budget meeting tomorrow, when the administration will also suggest the council invests more than it has ever done before in road repairs to tackle the pothole epidemic.

Council chiefs will also propose to invest £2.5m in the Team Up to Clean Up campaign over the next five years to ensure Renfrewshire is an attractive place to live in and visit.

Cllr Nicolson said: “There are certain services which have basically been starved of cash – that has become apparent when you see the amount of litter in the roads.

“We’ve also seen a dramatic rise in the number of potholes. It’s the first time I’ve seen potholes on the motorway, so that tells you how bad the winter was.

“There’s a large investment going into digital activity as well, trying to deliver superfast broadband around Renfrewshire.

“A lot of the areas we are trying to tackle are things people see outside their front door.

“It’s quite important as well when visitors come to Renfrewshire, if the place isn’t clean, it sends a message out to them.

“People become a lot more proud of their communities if they look as if they are cared for.”

The council will additionally propose that a total of £5m is injected into the Tackling Poverty programme over the next five years, providing support for those most in need.

It includes initiatives such as the Cost of the School Day Fund, which is made available to headteachers to help those from families with low incomes.

Cllr John Shaw, Renfrewshire’s finance convener, said he hopes opposition councillors will back the proposals.

He added: “The budget has been developed with other groups.

“Everyone’s had input into this, so it’s a budget for Renfrewshire and we hope elected members get behind it without too much hassle.”

Cllr Nicolson added: “We’ve been listening to communities and those conversations are reflected in this budget.

“I would be surprised if any of the elected members can find anything to complain about.

“Any issues that have popped up, we’ve tried to encapsulate them in the motion.”