East Lothian Council leader tells First Minister to match 32% council tax rise for county

Wednesday November 8th 2023

Norman Hampshire outdoors landscape

East Lothian Council leader Norman Hampshire.


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

East Lothian Council’s leader has told the First Minister he will need to match the funds a 32 per cent rise in council tax would have brought the local authority after freezing the increase.

Norman Hampshire described Humza Yousaf’s announcement of a council tax freeze as ‘extremely disappointing’ in a letter to him.

And he said Mr Yousaf’s promise to match the money which would have been brought in by a rise, means he will need to find millions of pounds to allow East Lothian Council to continue providing critical services.

Councillor Hampshire said: “This council is facing a significant unfunded pressure this year after applying reserves in excess of £10m, a funding gap of over £27m next year, and a cumulative funding gap in excess of £71m over the next 5 years.

“Given the size of this council, this is effectively requiring us to remove around a quarter of our annual running costs, which is simply not sustainable without there being a significant and detrimental impact to the community as a whole and our continued ability to sustain growth of this scale.

“The funding gap we are now facing next year alone is equivalent to a 32% council tax increase and given you have announced that a council tax freeze will be fully funded, this additional funding will need to be commensurate to the size of our financial gap we are facing.

“We must also ensure that this is delivered alongside a clear commitment that this additional funding will be provided on a on a recurring basis.”

Mr Hampshire pointed out in his letter the growth which has taken place in the county to support economic growth nationally, while there has been an “absence of critical resource investment” to support it.

He warned the national growth policy had now placed the council in “the most severe financial challenge it has ever faced, with the very real possibility that we will not be able to sustain critical service delivery in the short term”.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The council tax freeze next year will benefit every council tax-payer in Scotland at a time when rising prices are putting significant strain on household finances.

“The total funding will be discussed and agreed in partnership with Local Government, and will form part of broader funding decisions made in the 2024-25 Scottish Budget.”

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