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Tuesday, December 8th, 2015
East Lothian Greens are criticising the local authority’s “lopsided” budget cuts consultation.
The council is inviting public comments on proposed “efficiency savings” in the 2016-17 and 17-18 budgets, due to be voted on by councillors in February.
Changes proposed by the council, highlighted by East Lothian Greens as giving most cause for concern, include:
-Increase in homelessness charges.
-Cuts to External Placements in the Children’s Wellbeing and Additional Support departments.
-Cuts to Devolved School Management budgets.
-Service redesigns including janitorial/cleaning, suggesting some of the lowest paid employees face losing their jobs.
-Cuts to funding for Enjoy, the arms-length leisure centres body.
“Due to successive years of council tax freezes imposed by the Scottish Government and austerity imposed by Westminster, East Lothian Council has been salami-slicing departmental spending. This looks set to deepen, forcing the council to consider Scrooge-like measures such as increasing homelessness charges.
“A three year budget was agreed by councillors in February, so the current lopsided consultation only presents what might be cut; it does not give the public any real options. It invites us to prioritise different council services, pitting museums and libraries against social care and education, when of course these should all be protected. At March 2015 the council had £18.1m in reserves. Some of that is earmarked for various departments but it underlines that cuts are not inevitable.”
Isla Aitken, North Berwick Greens campaigner, said:
“In other European countries local government is local and actually governs. What we have in East Lothian and across Scotland are regional bureaucracies that have little power and rely on central government for the bulk of their funding. This lack of local control perhaps explains why so many people feel they cannot influence decisions that affect their local area.
“Cuts to children’s wellbeing, school budgets and leisure centres will simply damage our communities. Rather than asking us to pick which cuts we want, the council needs to be open and honest about how it raises funds and how it spends them. East Lothian Greens want to hear from local people affected by these proposed cuts so we can send a strong message that the continued downgrading of services is unacceptable, and a new way forward must be found.”