East Lothian Council’s budget plans for 2020/21 were approved today.

Council Leader Willie Innes said:

“Our priorities continue to be enhancing communities, helping children achieve their potential and supporting vulnerable people.

“But setting a balanced budget, as we are legally required to do, has become increasingly challenging. This year, we faced a funding shortfall of £4.4 million for 2020/21 even after applying the maximum council tax increase. This is because most of our revenue budget comes in the form of Scottish Government grants, which has fallen by 2% in real terms this year and on top of a national 7.6% reduction to local government funding since 2013/14 as referenced in a recent report by Audit Scotland. Council tax provides less than a quarter of the money we need to run local services.

“As a result we have had to make some difficult decisions in order to, as far as possible, maintain essential public services for the people of East Lothian.”

Key points from the budget include:

  • Increasing council tax by 4.84%
  • Drawing on £1.466 million of the council’s limited reserves
  • Managing staffing budgets to generate savings
  • Introducing new, efficient ways of working
  • Continued investment in new, improved or expanded local schools and infrastructure, support by a combination of government grants, capital receipts, developer contributions and borrowing
  • Further investment in East Lothian’s roads network
  • Support for the environment including flood protection schemes

Mr Innes added:

“Despite the significant financial challenges faced by all local authorities, I am pleased that we will be investing in the improvements to infrastructure which is a challenging but absolutely vital component of the inclusive growth agenda in East Lothian – one of Scotland’s fastest growing areas.

“We’re currently building, extending or refurbishing schools and will continue to support active travel, supporting our ambitions for a low carbon economy and recognising the importance of the Climate Emergency.

“With the new town at Blindwells, mixed development at Old Craighall and the potential of the former Cockenzie Power Station site, we are ambitious about the future prosperity of East Lothian and will do our best to play our part.

“Our valued council employees continue to have a vital role to play, working with our communities and partners, in achieving a more prosperous and successful East Lothian.

“While the budget means there will be a need to review how we do things in the council –ensuring our structures remain as efficient and effective as possible while embracing new, transformative ways of working – I am confident that we can continue to be one of Scotland’s top performing local authorities providing the first-class services our residents rightly deserve and expect.”

Published: Tuesday, 3rd March 2020