Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

East Lothian council tax payers face 4.79% rise

Council tax in East Lothian will increase by 4.79% after the minority Labour administration saw its 2019/20 budget approved.

The rise is expected to bring in an extra £1.29m.

However, the authority's finance chief Jim Lamond said core funding would still have to fall by just under £2.5m.

SNP councillor Stuart Currie described the budget, which was supported by Conservative councillors, as a "massive tax bombshell".

Among areas facing cuts of nearly £1.4m is what is described as "staffing performance and senior management reviews".

Rents to rise

But other proposed savings, such as scrapping disabled taxi card services and charging for garden waste were shelved.

As well as increasing council tax by 4.79%, the council agreed further rises of 3% annually in the following two years and a 5% increase in council house rent annually over the next five years.

The leader of East Lothian Council, Labour's Willie Innes, accused Scotland's Finance Secretary Derek Mackay of "arrogance and smugness" in his approach to local authority funding.

He believed that additional funds of £1.7m from the Scottish government came with a significant number of "new burdens".

However, Mr Currie hit back saying: "This budget is the very definition of the phrase tax bombshell. Make no mistake, this represents a hammer blow to residents in East Lothian, many of whom will simply not be able to afford this tax hit."

Supporting the administration's budget, Conservative councillor Jane Henderson said the authority could "only spend what it receives".

She added: "Local authorities are being starved of cash in what is a complex game of higher level politics. Essential services have to be maintained."

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