East Lothian Council’s spending plans for the year ahead have been approved, with a focus on protecting essential public services as far as possible in an adverse financial climate.

Councillors met today to consider the 2024/25 budget, with difficult decisions required to plug a £17.3 million funding gap largely due to external pressures, with a £2.157 million increase in core funding from central government being insufficient to cover rising costs. The Administration budget proposals were approved.

Council tax

Council tax will be frozen in 2024/25 - partially supported by a £3.4 million grant from the Scottish Government. However, the amount does not cover the rising cost of delivering services to a growing population meaning further measures are required to deliver a balanced budget, as legally required.

Scottish Water has decided to increase charges for their household services. As councils collect these on behalf of Scottish Water with council tax, residents will see what they pay go up.


Rents for council tenants will increase by 7%. This increase will enable investment in modernisation, energy efficiency improvements and new affordable housing, to continue alongside improvements to the repairs service and reducing the time taken to re-let empty properties.  The council has seen a full reduction in the grant funding available from Scottish Government to support the delivery of new housing for 2024/25.


There will be a £5 million investment over three years in the refurbishment of Tranent’s Loch Centre, where the swimming pool is currently closed because of the need for repairs. The council will also continue investing in local infrastructure and schools through its capital programme.

Previously agreed savings

A number of savings agreed last year take effect in 2024/25. For example, the household waste (green bin) service will change from a two-weekly to three-weekly service from 1 April, reflecting increased focus on the weekly recycling service.

A £35 charge will be introduced for those requiring the garden waste collection service. Applications to apply for a permit for a fortnightly collection will open from 1 April with the new service starting from July.

Newly agreed budget measures

A 100% council tax premium will be introduced for second homes, while changes will be made to empty property relief for business rates.

The council will encourage as many young people as possible who travel to school on a service bus to do so through the national Young Persons’ (Under 22s) Free Bus Travel Scheme rather than using a council pass. This does not apply to those travelling on a contract bus.

While the council will continue its support for the Brunton Theatre Trust, funding will be reduced by £200,000. The council will provide £254,982 for the trust in 2024/25.

The council continues to value its strong partnerships with local communities. More than £2 million annually in community group funding, including funding to Area Partnerships, Community Councils, East Lothian Advice Consortium, is currently provided. In light of the overall financial challenges, there will be a reduction in community grants budget of £100,000. However, £1.4 million will still be available for community awards. Additionally, funding for each Area Partnership will be reduced from £50,000 to £45,000, with the exception of Musselburgh which will reduce from £100,000 to £90,000.

Similarly, the council will maintain its partnership working with enjoyleisure, albeit the £2 million in funding currently provided will be reduced by £100,000 to just over £1.9 million.

Where practical and appropriate, the management and operation of wider community sports facilities will be actioned where sports clubs will be given the opportunity to take on the management and maintenance of the facilities they use. A number of similar arrangements are already in place and operate successfully.

The maintenance of East Lothian’s vital roads network will continue, albeit with the current £4.2m currently reducing by £330,000. Additionally, there will be £5.5 million of capital investment.

There will be a reduction in funding for the Museums service, with council officers to consider the best future operating models for these valued attractions. Officers will bring forward proposals to re-design and re-shape the library service to achieve an efficiency, with opportunities for engagement on this in due course.

A redesign of the instrumental music service in schools is also planned to align costs more closely to the funding received from Scottish Government. This will ensure it is cost-effective whilst still maintaining the no charging policy. 

‘Extreme challenges’

Council Leader Norman Hampshire said:

“In developing this budget, we’ve faced extreme challenges. After listening to feedback from communities, I assure residents that we are trying as hard as we can to focus on core priorities – including tackling poverty, giving children the best possible start in life and vulnerable people.

“But, when income is not keeping pace with the rising cost of delivering services, difficult decisions which inevitably impact on services are being taken so that we are on a sustainable financial footing.

“In recent years, we’ve seen rising costs and pressures such as inflation. Although budgetary challenges are not unique to this council, East Lothian is one of Scotland’s fastest growing areas, with the council playing our part in achieving national government objectives, including managing the requirement of an additional 10,000 houses, and supporting economic growth.

“But each new house represents a further increase in demand for services which is not covered by additional council tax income nor our current grant settlement.

“The bulk of council funding comes from national government with council tax income amounting to approximately a quarter. Our grant from central government is the third lowest in Scotland per head of population. There is no recognition of East Lothian’s increasing population and additional costs, including the staffing and running of new schools.

“We have already taken steps such as reducing building costs through our asset review, energy efficiency and increased digitisation of services. We can always do more but while our financial management is recognised as well run as evidenced by external and independent audit reports, Audit Scotland stated last year that councils were ‘entering the most difficult budget setting context seen for many years. Increasingly difficult choices about spending priorities will need to be made.’ That is the position in which we now find ourselves.

“I would like to thank local residents for their patience understanding – as well as our hard working council staff for their commitment. We find ourselves in a very difficult situation but, while a tough period is ahead and the impact will be felt, we will continue doing our utmost to mitigate these savings and deliver the very possible services.”



Published: Tuesday, 20th February 2024