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MSPs approve Scottish Government's budget

MSPs voted today to approve the Finance Secretary's budget Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

MSPs voted this afternoon to approve the Scottish Government's spending plans for the year ahead.

The Deputy First Minister and Finance Secretary John Swinney said his priorities were measures to tackle inequality and boost the economy.

His budget included extra money to expand childcare provision and to provide free school meals for all pupils in the first three years of primary schools.

His opponents say more money should have been allocated to the NHS.

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More than 1000 signatures on petition against bank closures

Natwest has already closed Credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire

A petition with more than 1000 signatures against the closure of two rural banks in Cumbria has been handed to the Government.

Natwest in Sedbergh has already closed, and Barclays will also in two weeks time.

The petition has been signed by both businesses and residents.

Banking can still be done in the town's post office and Natwest has agreed for one of its mobile branches to visit twice a week.

Children's tsar wades into learning support row

The letter asks the council to delay its decision on the proposals. Credit: Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People

Scotland's Children's Commissioner has entered the row over proposed learning support cuts in Dumfries and Galloway.

At Dumfries and Galloway Council's budget meeting tomorrow, February 5, the decision on whether to axe 52 learning support jobs in the county will be taken.

But Tam Baillie is concerned by the proposals:

"I am writing to express my concern at proposals currently being considered by Dumfries & Galloway Council. These proposals would, I understand, reduce the number Learning Support Staff employed by the Council by a minimum of 52.8 FTE over the next 3 years.

"Whilst I appreciate that Dumfries & Galloway Council, in common with all Local Authorities, is operating under increasing financial pressures, I am concerned that these current proposals will impact upon the most vulnerable children and young people in Dumfries and Galloway. This includes disabled children and young people, those with caring responsibilities and those requiring more short-term targeted support (e.g. after a bereavement).

"The proposals appear to suggest that ASL provision will be greatly reduced, focused mainly on areas of Multiple Deprivation, and that children and young people will find it much more difficult to access the support they need. For some children these changes may remove their right to participate fully in school life."

– Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People

He's calling for the decision to be delayed:

"I am aware that the Council is due to make a decision on this proposal on Thursday, 5th February, 2015. I believe, however, that the Council should pause and take stock.

"I would suggest that the Council carry out a Children’s Rights Impact Assessment (CRIA) before any substantive decisions are taken, in order to fully assess the potential impact of these proposals from a children’s rights perspective."

– Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children & Young People

Eden District Council’s Executive agrees on budget

Eden District Council is considering a 1.99% in Council Tax Credit: ItV

Last night, Eden District Council’s Executive agreed a budget to recommend to Council.

It follows a period of consultation on the draft budget.

There are no proposals to reduce services, although a 1.99% rise in Council Tax is being considered, which would be an increase of £3.61 a year.

“We are considering a Council Tax increase of a modest 1.99%. The effect on households will be an increase of 7p per week.

"We have frozen our car parking charges. We did freeze our Council Tax for a number of years. If we do not increase our Council Tax in-line with inflation it will be difficult to maintain our existing services in future years".

– Cllr Gordon Nicolson

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Around The House: Tonight at 10.40pm (or 11.10pm Freeview South Scotland)

Around The House at 10.40pm on ITV, and 11.10pm on Freeview in the South of Scotland Credit: ITV Border

Paul Brand presents this month's political programme from Westminster.

Scotland's only Conservative MP - Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale's David Mundell - is among the guests to discuss the ups and downs of the election campaign so far.

Also in the programme; how much money do we need to earn, to be able to have a decent life?

Join Paul Brand for Around The House tonight (Thurs 22 January) at the new earlier time of 10.40pm on ITV, or at 11.10pm - after Representing Border - if you are watching on Freeview in the South of Scotland.

What you need to know

The Land and Building Transaction Tax will replace UK Stamp Duty in Scotland Credit: PA

The basics: Today, John Swinney announced changes to the rates in his proposed Land and Building Transaction tax .

This tax will replace Stamp Duty in Scotland from April 1 and the plans were first announced in October.

Why the changes? John Swinney changed the details outlined for the tax after George Osborne's autumn statement.

The Chancellor's plans left people buying property at the higher end of the market in Scotland paying much more than their counterparts in England.

So what do the changes mean?

The new tax will be different from stamp duty in that:

  • Scotland will have a higher threshold before tax is paid. Under UK Stamp Duty, the threshold is £125,000. However, under Mr Swinney's new proposals, the threshold in Scotland will be £145,000
  • Buyers at the top end of the market will still pay more than those in England. Properties in Scotland over £750,000 will face the the top rate of tax - 12%. In England, this rate only applies to properties over £1.5 million.

It will be different than the plans proposed in October:

  • The rate of tax proposed for properties worth between £250,000 and £350,000 has reduced. Under October proposals, the rate was 10%. Under the rates announced today, this has halved to 5%.

New rates for property tax announced

Mr Swinney announced the changes during a Budget Bill Debate Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Today, the Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney announced new rates for property tax in Scotland.

The new rates will form the Land and Building Transaction Tax that will replace Stamp Duty from April 1.

They are as follows:

  • No tax up to £145, 000
  • 2% from £145,000 - £250, 000
  • 5 % from £250,000 - £325, 000
  • 10% from £325,000 - £750,000
  • 12% from £750,000 plus

These are marginal rates and only the proportion of the price above each threshold will be taxed at the next rate.

According to Mr Swinney, 90 percent of transactions in Scotland - which all fall in brackets below £330,000 - will either pay less tax on their new homes, or the same as they would under current rates of UK Stamp Duty.

The changes have come in response to an overhaul of the UK stamp duty system announced by Chancellor George Osborne in his Autumn Statement.

Parish councils funding to continue

COPELAND Council will continue funding parish councils.

The council’s executive committee decided to continue the £67,000 funding for 2015/16.

The council had the option to reduce the grant by 30% - the same percentage as the council’s grant from central government has been cut - to assist with budget savings of £1.65m.

“We listened very carefully to our parish councils on this and they told us they did not want the grant to end, so we have decided to retain it.

“As one of the hardest-hit councils in the country this was a difficult decision, as we have considerable savings to make, but in the end we decided not to pass on the cuts to the parishes.

"They do an excellent job in delivering services that enhance the quality of life in our communities."

– Cllr Gillian Troughton, portfolio holder for finance and HR
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