The budget and supporting council tax levels for 2021/22 were approved at today’s full meeting of East Lothian Council.

Key points:

  • Council tax will be frozen in the year ahead
  • Further investment has been earmarked for Education and Children’s Services – including additional support for learning – and Health and Social Care
  • Additional ring fenced funding from the Scottish Government will support the continued expansion of early learning and childcare to 1140 hours
  • There will be support for a Business Recovery Investment Fund in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to deliver sustainable development, and to develop and enhance skills
  • Investment in an IT programme, which will include Education
  • There will be substantial capital investment in local infrastructure including transport
  • New and expanded schools will be supported by continued capital investment

Councils are being asked by the Scottish Government to deliver a number of policy commitments in relation to maintaining the national pupil teacher ratio level, ensuring places are provided for all Probationer Teachers who require one; and additional investment to support social care budgets.

Draft local government funding settlement

Grant support from the Scottish Government provides the vast majority of East Lothian Council’s funding necessary to provide council services.

East Lothian Council’s Core Revenue Support Grant has increased by £1.230 million in cash terms relative to 2020-21 budgets (0.7% increase) whereas inescapable collective financial pressures upon the council amount to just under £13 million in 2021-22.

An additional £1.948m is included in the draft local government funding settlement to support a Council Tax freeze, which is equivalent to just less than 3% of council tax yield.

Additional ring-fenced funding has been confirmed in the settlement in line with previously announced funding in 2018 to support the continued expansion of Early Learning and Childcare to 1140 hours.

An additional £1.398m of new funding has been provided to support specific policy commitments within social care and must be passed on in full to the Integration Joint Board.

East Lothian Council will also receive an increase of £0.08m of capital grant, taking the total capital grant to £7.587m.

An additional increase in specific capital grant to support Cycling, Walking and Safer Streets, taking the overall total grant to £0.469m in 2021-22.

Supporting high-priority services

A report considered at last week’s meeting of East Lothian Council highlighted that the Council had been left with an adjusted General Services Revenue budget gap in 2021-22 of just under £4.2 million rising to just under £4.5 million by the end of 2023- 24.

Depute Council Leader Norman Hampshire said:

“The budget-setting process has been extremely challenging in such a difficult financial environment for local authorities. We are legally required to set a balanced budget and recognising the additional strain placed upon us by responding to the covid pandemic, we have had made the best possible use of the fiscal flexibilities open to us.

“We are absolutely determined to continue supporting high-quality priority services, which the people of East Lothian and expect and depend on, with a firm focus on enhancing communities, helping children achieve their potential and supporting vulnerable people.

“Additional investment in key areas such as Education and Children’s Services, including additional support for learning, and early learning and childcare are key aspects of our approved budget.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we have seen heroic efforts on the part of council employees and local communities.

“But it continues to be a difficult and challenging time for many families and we recognise the severe financial pressure which many are under. That’s why the decision has been taken to freeze council tax for the year ahead, following on from last week’s decision to freeze rents for tenants living in council housing.

“Whilst it is a hugely challenging financial environment, we will continue to deliver improvements to local infrastructure which is a vital component of the inclusive growth agenda in East Lothian – one of Scotland’s fastest growing areas.

“That’s why we must continue our programme of building, extending or refurbishing schools and supporting our ambitions for a low carbon economy, recognising the importance of the Climate Emergency. It is important to note that the funding available to us is not keeping pace with this growth and rising demands for our services. Embracing and more effectively supporting growth can deliver greater economic benefits and prosperity for both local and national economies.

“In the year ahead, we will need to ensure the council continues to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible, embracing new, transformative ways of working.

“Doing so will enable us to continue providing first-class services for the benefit of all East Lothian residents.”

The draft local government settlement remains in draft pending its passage through the Scottish Parliamentary process, with the final Stage 3 debate expected on 9 March 2021. The next UK Budget for 2021-22 will be announced on 3 March 2021, and it is unclear whether this will change any treasury allocations already provided to Scottish Government.

View the budget documents considered at today's Council meeting.

The proposals as amended by the Administration amendment were approved.

Published: Tuesday, 2nd March 2021