The Council has released their public consultation on the upcoming budget for East Lothian., It is the first look at some of the difficult choices that will be facing all Councillors like myself in the coming weeks . The Council’s Officers estimate that East Lothian Council will likely need to find savings of around £32 million over the next five years, not including savings that have already been identified in previous budgets.
We won’t know the exact figures until the SNP government releases and passes their budget but if it is anything like previous years, they will continue to cut local authorities’ budgets. What we do know is that the last few years have been difficult in local government due to the decisions taken by the SNP at Holyrood. Over the past six years the Council has already had to reduce its costs by more than £27 million.
What the Scottish Government decides to do is so important because, contrary to what many people would assume, the majority of the council’s budget doesn’t actually come from Council Tax but from a grant from the Scottish Government. It makes up about 71% of the Council’s income.
What all this means is that the Council and Councillors face some very difficult choices. We need to consider how we could reduce costs without effecting the frontline services people receive, how we can increase our income without hurting those with least in our society and in general just how we can deliver the same with less.
It’s important that, as Councillors, when taking these decisions we have as much information about the effects of a policy change, or funding cut of any option presented to us will be . That is what Council Officers the best of their abilities will provide for with. However it is also vital we hear what the public thinks about the different options that could be made and also what services they prioritise the most.
That is why the Council has set up a consultation and I hope that you will take part in it. You can do so on the Council’s Consultations hub by completing it online at this web address - https://eastlothianconsultations.co.uk/policy-partnerships/east-lothian-council-budget-consult19-20/ or you can request a paper copy by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 01620 827270. The closing date for the consultation is Christmas Eve.
But before filling it in I would suggest you watch the video the council has produced about the budget. It will give you an idea of how much the services the council provides actually cost. For example, it costs £6,257 a year to put a child through secondary school or £133 per household to provide refuse & recycling services or £25 per person on the maintenance of parks.
I and the Conservative Group, like last year, will continue focus on protecting frontline services as that is what matters. That’s why we ensured the council budget was amended so that, amongst other things, a review of senior management is taking place that will save £600,000 over 3 years, we will continue to take that approach this budget cycle.