It’s time to have your say on how East Lothian Council spends money to support local services.

Residents are being encouraged to take part in a budget consultation before Elected Members meet in February to agree the council’s 2019/20 spending plans.

The consultation is available on our Consultation Hub and is open until 24 December.

Progress and challenges

Council Leader Willie Innes said:

“The council is making huge progress towards realising our vision for an even more prosperous, safe and sustainable East Lothian, with a dynamic and thriving economy, that enables our people and communities to flourish. The recent Best Value Assurance Report from Audit Scotland found that we had improved significantly in the last 11 years, with performance comparing favourably to other councils in the majority of service areas.

“Like other local authorities, we continue to deal with significant financial pressures. In East Lothian, we provide services across Scotland’s fastest growing council area.

“Despite growth in our communities - which the Accounts Commission acknowledged we have planned well for – the council spends considerably much more on providing essential local services than we receive in council tax.

“That’s because around 71% of our budget comes from central government funding. But with increased costs, inflation and an obligation to implement national policy commitments, the amount of funding available to us is falling in real terms.

“This resulted in the council being required to make savings of £5m in 2018/19. It’s expected that savings of at least £7.5m will be required across the next two years. Depending on emerging budgetary pressures, there is the possibility of additional savings being required. We’re awaiting news of exactly how much funding we will receive from central government next year.

“A recent Financial Prospects report highlighted that, depending on emerging scenarios, the requirement for savings could be as high as around £32 million over five years.

“While the council has already reduced costs by more than £27 million over the last six years and constantly challenge ourselves to be more innovative and efficient, it’s becoming increasingly important to look at innovative new ways of delivering services. Doing so will enable us to continue helping our children achieve their potential, support older and vulnerable people, protect the environment and build an increasingly sustainable economy.

Tough choices

“The reality is that the council continues to face some very tough choices and look at how we might need to reduce costs, raise additional income and look for more ways of doing differently.

“The consultation presents some possible options from council officers which might help us to address the challenges posed by reductions in the amount of funding available to us, while at the same time focusing on our priorities and protecting the most vulnerable in our communities.

“It is important to stress that no decisions have been made and work is continuing to identify savings. However, the options highlight the kind of challenges and tough choices faced by councillors across Scotland. It’s absolutely vital that we hear from the residents we serve at this time.”

A draft budget will be presented to the January meeting of the council’s Cabinet before councillors meet in February to agree the budget for 2019/20.

Published: Wednesday, 5th December 2018