Tuesday February 28th 2023
Council tax in East Lothian will go up by seven percent from April after councillors backed a Labour administration budget plan to help plug an £18.9 million budget gap.
The increase in council tax will mean Band D homeowners and tenants will pay an additional £93.92 a year as their annual bill rises to £1,435.62.
The budget proposals, which will also see a charge for garden waste collection and reduced household bin collections introduced by April next year, were drawn up after a series of cross party meetings.
However Conservative councillors challenged the plans today with their own last minute amendment calling for a lower council tax rise of 5.4 per cent.
The Conservative group amendment called for additional cuts to the health and social care services budget, asking them to find £660,000 of savings instead of £250,000 included in the administration plan.
And they called for a 50 per cent reduction in funding which is given to local area partnerships each year arguing the unelected bodies were ‘not best placed’ to represent communities.
Councillor Lachlan Bruce, leader of the Conservative group, told a virtual meeting of the council: “I support much of what is in the administration budget but we are recommending a lower council tax increase.
“I firmly believe as a councillor we have a responsibility to limit the financial impact on our residents.”
Council leader Norman Hampshire said the council found itself in the position of having to find additional funds of nearly £19 million to balance the budget for the year ahead because of “bad decisions by the UK Government.”
He said: “We have a cost of living crisis mostly caused by the incompetence of the UK Government.
“We are all elected to try and protect services that our communities use and we are now in a position where we have to make decisions that some services will have to be reduced or increased in costs.”
Councillor Lyn Jardine, SNP opposition group leader, said she was supporting the administration budget which had been drawn up with input from her group and “frank discussions.”
She said: “The pressures facing East Lothian in particular are significant.
“We are a new SNP group who set out to negotiate and have taken part in a series of frank discussions.
“This budget has been achieved not just by diving down on resources but by also changing how we provide services and charging a little bit more for them.”
Following the vote which saw councillors approve the council tax rise of seven percent by 18 votes to four, Councillor Hampshire urged people who were concerned about the impact on them to seek support.
He said: “I know this will be concerning for individuals and families and we will do everything we can to support people who need help.
“If you’re on a low income, there may be funds available to help boost your income, this includes Council Tax Reduction. Even if you’re working you may still qualify for help so we’re encouraging people to check.
“If you can get online and are able to check this yourself, we have a benefits calculator on the council website, just visit www.eastlothian.gov.uk/cost-of-living-support.
“If you can’t get online, you can pick up a copy of our ‘Helping with the cost of living crisis’ leaflet from a local council office or library. We can also send one to you – just phone the main council line on 01620 827827 and ask for financial inclusion. Our financial inclusion team can also provide advice and can link in with other council services and local agencies on your behalf.”Tweet Share on Facebook