Local residents are being asked to provide their views on the services that matter to them and suggestions for how the council might find further savings.

A new consultation has been launched to help inform decisions ahead of the publication of detailed budget proposals in February 2024.

Council Leader Norman Hampshire said:

“It’s really important that as many people as possible in East Lothian provide their views on the delivery of local services.

“A recent report highlighted that the financial situation is the greatest challenge that East Lothian Council has ever faced.

“The cost of delivering services has continued to rise, driven by a combination of external factors including inflation and interest rates. The council is also facing significant additional demand for services related to supporting a growing population.

“The council has played its part in achieving national government objectives including managing the requirement for additional housing in the county. Currently in East Lothian, our grant from central government is the third lowest in Scotland per head of population. There is no recognition within the grant received of East Lothian’s increasing population and the recurring rising costs that arise, for example the staffing and running of new schools.

“Income from council tax doesn’t cover the cost of providing all services to new homes – such as schools, bin collections or social care. Council tax provides around a quarter of our funding, with most of our revenue budget coming from national government. Each new house represents a further increase in demand on our services, which is not covered by council tax income nor our current grant settlement.

“While we continue to make the case for East Lothian to receive additional resources and are progressing our transformation programme to deliver efficiencies, the reality is that Income overall is not keeping pace with the cost of delivering services and this is putting huge pressure on our budget. 

“We are facing a situation whereby we will be unable to sustain the level of services currently being provided and so we need to hear the views of our communities to inform the very tough decisions which elected members will need to make when setting our budget for 2023/24 and beyond.

“My message to East Lothian residents is – please have your say in response to this very important budget consultation, helping to shape our future.”


The East Lothian Council Plan 2022 to 2027 sets out our ambitions to continue the journey 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.

Balancing the 2023-24 budget was a difficult challenge. Whilst we have seen a net increase in our overall funding, through government grants and a 7% council tax increase, it has not been enough to cover increased spending pressures. Increasing demand for council services, along with rising costs of fuel, energy and inflation more generally has resulted in increased costs for most services.  Although Council agreed to deliver £6.7m of savings, it was still necessary to balance the budget through a planned reserve drawdown of £7.4m.

Our Financial Strategy sets out our commitment to reducing the cost of services through: asset rationalisation and energy transformation; transformation, service redesign and digitalisation; early intervention and prevention.

However, with a funding gap of over £70 million, it will not be possible to close this through efficiencies alone, which leaves the Council with the following options to balance the budget:

  • Reduce the amount that we spend, by reducing or stopping certain services
  • Increase the amount of income that we raise through council tax, fees and charges

The First Minister recently announced Scottish Government’s intention to encourage local authorities to freeze the council tax next year.  The council is awaiting further information about the implications of this announcement for the council’s funding position but in the meantime we are keen to understand your views on this as part of this consultation.

How to get involved

This consultation seeks views on the overall strategy that East Lothian Council needs to adopt for prioritising spending. 

It asks people to indicate the level of importance they attach to the council’s four strategic objectives (grow our economy, grow our people, grow our communities, grow our capacity) and whether they think services contributing to these should be reduced or see council tax or charges increased to protect them.

The consultation, which runs until 5 January, can be accessed online.

Paper copies will be available in local libraries from next week.

Published: Tuesday, 28th November 2023