East Ayrshire Council will call on the Scottish Government to protect low-income families if plans to increase council tax for higher band homes goes ahead.

Councillors debated thier response to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the changes, which would see Bands E increase by 7.5 per cent, Band F by 12.5 per cent  Band G by 17.5 per cent and Band H by 22.5 per cent.

There would be no change for those households in bands A-D.

The SNP,  Labour and Conservative opposition all agreed that council tax was regressive and needed to be replaced.

However, the SNP voted to accept the Scottish Government’s proposal with the caveat that council tax discounts were expanded to support lower-income families in higher tax bands.

The Labour and Conservative groups voiced their opposition and sought to explicitly oppose the changes while demanding the system be reformed.

The vote couldn’t have been tighter at 15 apiece, with Provost Jim Todd using his casting vote to approve the SNP amendment.

Finance boss Joe McLachlan had acknowledged the system was regressive and would see increased bills for some residents at a time when there were already ‘significant financial pressures due to the cost of living crisis’.

He stated: “The proposals go some way to bringing fairness and equity across the council tax bands.

“It should be noted that as a council we would much prefer if the £176m potential funding that could derive from these proposals was instead paid to local government as part of the annual recurring block grant.

“This approach would ensure regular and stable additional funding to local government rather than implementing changes that would see councils issue increased bills to householders in Band E-H dwellings at a time when households already face significant financial pressures due to cost of living crisis.”

He said that the financial pressures on councils and the potential additional resources tipped the balance towards supporting the increases.

At the same time, he strongly recommend that a review of the council tax reduction scheme be undertaken alongside the changes.

SNP councillor Iain Linton proposed amendments to the recommended response, placing more emphasis on the need for increasing financial support and expanding the criteria for council tax reductions.

He urged the council to write calling for action on developing a replacement.

Several councillors spoke out against backing the increase, saying it would unjustly impact lower income households in higher band homes.

The Labour group's depute leader, Councillor Barry Douglas, said: “The proposal put forward is a blunt tool.”

He argued that the problem had been exacerbated by ‘chronic underfunding’ from the Scottish Government adding that income and the value of a home could not be correlated.

He gave an example of a person who may have been involved in a divorce and had inherited the family home.

He added: “This is tinkering at the edges of council tax. It needs a radical overhaul.”

Labour councillor John McGhee argued that the SNP had failed to follow through on regular promises to scrap the council tax.

However, he said that if the council was not going to support the increases, it should suggest something else.

“I’m greatly concerned that there will be any substantive review and in a few years time area increased from the tinkering with this aggressive tax will simply by be offset by further cuts to the local authority grant settlement.”

Conservative councillor James Adams said: “While I do understand that we are looking to help 80 per cent of people, fundamentally we are penalising another 20 per cent of people and that’s unfair.”

Council leader Douglas Reid said that he accepted the need for reform of the system, suggesting this was being done through COSLA.

But he pointed out that the increase would help the council deal with increasing financial pressures.

“What we’ve got here is a situation where we get pay disputes, we get more and more pressure and we just don’t have the money to resolve some of these things.”