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Edinburgh Live
Edinburgh Live
Marie Sharp

East Lothian council tax increase proposed in bid to plug £10million funding gap

Councillors will be asked to approve a 3% council tax rise in East Lothian for the coming year as officials look to plug a £10million funding gap.

Despite a pledge by council leader Norman Hampshire to do all he could to avoid increasing the annual household bill, the administration's draft budget plans include a 3% hike for the year ahead - with 5% increases over the following two years meaning it could go up by 13% over three years.

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In a report on the administration's draft budget proposal, finance chief Sarah Fortune says that despite additional funding from Scottish Government to cover extra demands on the local authority's budget from national policies there was still a shortfall.

She said: "Removing expenditure aligned to new policy initiatives within the national settlement this still leave a very significant funding gap in excess of £10 million in 2022-23."

Recommending the council tax increase her report adds: "A Council Tax increase of 3% for 2022-23 is being proposed, with indicative rises of 5% in the following 2 years.

"This remains consistent with the settlement letter which states that councils are expected to take full account of local needs and impacts on household budgets of the decisions they make."

The increase will mean Band D houses will see an annual increase of £39.08 to £1, 341.69 a year.

East Lothian Council leader Mr Hampshire said last month that council rent would not go up this year and that he would be trying to avoid a council tax increase.

He said: “The Scottish Government has again cut £100m for local government core funding and that’s £2m from East Lothian but because people are struggling with energy, fuel and other price increases we will freeze rents and do all we can not to increase council tax."

The cabinet meeting to approve the draft budget was delayed by a week because a by-election was held in the county last week, which saw Labour win a seat made vacant by the death of former council leader Willie Innes.

Among efficiencies proposed in the draft budget are more than £1million in savings from a "review of services" with more than £11million in cuts expected over the following two years.

No details of where the savings will be made through services are confirmed, with the review looking at "delivery models; enhanced programme of transformational change; new ways of working" along with exploring partnership working and ways to generate income.

A fee for the charging of electric vehicles, first introduced in February 2020, is estimated to bring in £10,000 over the coming year while the capital spend programme details more than £94million in planned work with just under half on the council's school estate and more than £5million investment earmarked for the council's fleet of vehicles.

Opposition groups will be given until February 21 to produce an alternative budget proposal for consideration.

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