A consultation has been launched giving people in East Lothian the chance to have their say on the council’s budget priorities.

The consultation highlights that, like other local authorities across Scotland, East Lothian Council is facing unprecedented budget challenges due to constrained funding, increasing costs and a growing population. 

The size of the budget gap presents a huge challenge – with net spending reductions of up to 25% needed by 2027/28.  This comes at a time when residents and businesses are also facing huge pressure from cost of living increases whilst they work to recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.  The council remains committed to supporting local people and communities, and ensuring that our resources are used as effectively as possible to deliver on our priorities.

Given the nature of the challenges likely to be faced in the delivery of services in this period, the consultation signals the start of a rolling process of engagement with the public over budget choices in the coming years.

'Significant pressures'

Council Leader Norman Hampshire said:

“East Lothian Council has clear priorities aligned to protecting the most vulnerable in our communities and has a good record of delivering commitments within available resources. But the scale of the challenges faced by the council is now raised to a level that we have not experienced in many years.

“Councils are currently dealing with very significant external pressures such as rising utility and energy costs as well as the impact of inflation, interest rate rises, the cost of borrowing and pay awards agreed nationally which are not fully funded. Income is not keeping pace with the cost of delivery services, at a time when East Lothian is one of Scotland’s fastest growing areas without the necessary increase in our revenue and capital grants.

“Most of our revenue budget comes from national government with council tax income from residents only accounting for about 23% of our funding.

“It projected that the council will overspend by more than £5 million in the current financial year which is why we recently agreed urgent mitigation measures to address the deteriorating financial position affecting local government.

“But it is currently estimated that the council could face a potential funding gap of in excess of £60 million in the next five years.

“We do have a strong track record of transforming services and are looking to build on this, but the reality is that very tough decisions are going to be required to get the council on a sustainable financial footing in the years ahead.

“Our online budget consultation includes questions on what people value most about where they live, which service areas they would like to see improved, which local issues are most important to communities and families and what the council should be doing differently to reduce the budget gap.

“We are keen to have conversations with our communities and make sure we understand what matters most.

“I would encourage people in our communities to give us their views to help inform the decisions which elected members will need to make early next year about our budget priorities for 2023/24 and beyond.”

People can respond to the consultation by visiting the council's Consultation Hub: Budget Consultation - East Lothian Council - Citizen Space (eastlothianconsultations.co.uk)

Published: Wednesday, 7th December 2022