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Thursday, February 4th, 2016
East Lothian Green campaigners Isla Aitken and Jason Rose outside Council HQ in Haddington
East Lothian Greens this week called on the local authority to consider raising Council Tax to prevent further drastic cuts to services and jobs.
The council sets its 2016/17 budget next Tuesday (9 Feb) and already the Labour leader of the administration has said there is no plan to raise funds to prevent job losses and service reduction.
The council has already earmarked a range of areas for cuts including external placements for children in care settings, devolved school management budgets and funding for the Enjoy arms-length company that runs leisure centres. In recent weeks the county’s mobile library service has been scrapped and it is understood that countryside and janitorial/cleaning staff posts are at risk.
Meanwhile the Scottish Government is set to slash funding to East Lothian Council by over £7million.
East Lothian Greens say a modest Council Tax increase of just 4 per cent would break the deadlock and provide almost £2million to invest in frontline services and community facilities.
At the moment the Band D level of Council Tax is £1,117.62 a year. A 4 per cent increase would add £44.70 a year – just 86p a week, resulting in £1.95million additional revenue to offset the planned cuts by the council and compensate for the £1.4million the Scottish Government would claw back for breaking the freeze.
Musselburgh Greens campaigner Jason Rose said:
“The Council Tax is discredited and must end. Freezing it was a sticking plaster approach when the recession hit almost a decade ago but for years now it has simply been putting more money in the pockets of those who need it least.
“The current Labour-led administration does not have to accept another year of the tax freeze, with further cuts hitting the weakest hardest. Rather than such a stark reaction to poor national governance, they could be responding constructively to protect local people and jobs.
“It is also irresponsible of SNP councillors to hide from reality. Their party, in Government, has chosen to throttle councils despite the importance of the services provided such as education and social care.”
North Berwick Greens campaigner Isla Aitken said:
“It’s unacceptable that our councillors don’t want to take control over their budgets. Freedom for local government to raise funds in different ways is taken for granted in other European countries yet here we have an incredibly centralised state.
“I was appalled to see the council consulting on a rise in homelessness charges – a policy councillors have apparently already agreed, making a mockery of the consultation. I also find the scrapping of the mobile library service incredibly short-sighted.
“East Lothian Greens are putting forward a constructive suggestion to raise funds, and both the administration and the opposition on the council would do well to heed it.”