Council Tax frozen in West Lothian as East Lothian pledges affordable homes funding

east lothian councilWest Lothian Council

East Lothian Council yesterday agreed a budget which includes an £85 million housing investment as West Lothian Council became the fourth local authority to announce a voluntarily freeze of the basic rate of Council Tax.

Part of a major investment of £169m in capital projects across the county, East Lothian’s five-year housing programme will see £85m programme of new council housing and almost £59m of investment in modernisation and extensions to existing homes.

In 2017/18, 35 new homes are expected to be completed at Pinkie in Musselburgh, as well as a further 18 at Russell Walk in North Berwick.

Further new council housing developments are planned for Tranent, Cockenzie and Haddington.

The purchase of some former council homes for sale on the open market will also continue.

Meanwhile, there will be a rolling programme of improvements to existing council houses. This includes refurbishments of bathrooms, kitchens and roofing and the installation of energy efficiency measures – in an effort to help reduce fuel poverty.

An £100,000 initiative to explore options to assist people with low cost home ownership was also announced by the local authority.

To achieve a balanced budget, East Lothian Council is to use £2.5m of its reserves. Savings of around £1.85m will be made in the council’s staffing budget over the next three years in addition to a transformational change programme which will realise efficiencies of around £2.4m.

It also decided to increase Council Tax by the full 3%.

Council leader Willie Innes said: “The last five years has proven to be one of the most challenging periods faced by East Lothian Council. As demand for our essential services has increased, the amount of Scottish Government funding available to us has continued to fall. My focus throughout this period has been on defending and protecting the vital public services upon which so many people across our county rely on.

“And this is reflected in our newly-agreed budget which, despite the financial challenges encountered, is all about delivering for East Lothian – helping our children achieve their potential, supporting older and vulnerable people, protecting the environment and building an increasingly sustainable economy.

“We are doing so by investing in new and upgraded schools, community facilities, a significant affordable housing programme and a raft of initiatives geared towards enhancing the economy and infrastructure of East Lothian. It is about making East Lothian the best it can be – for the benefit of all who live and work here.”

Meanwhile West Lothian Council joined Renfrewshire, Inverclyde and South Lanarkshire to confirm it is freezing the basic rate of Council Tax.

The council tax in West Lothian has been frozen for bands A to D, with the tax for Band D remaining at £1,128.

Bills for properties in Bands E to H will rise automatically from April through national changes to the way council tax is calculated which have been made by the Scottish Government.

The council said it would invest almost £398m to deliver local services, and was providing a commitment to consult West Lothian residents on future decisions, including council tax levels, over the next five years.

Council leader John McGinty, said: “Although the Scottish Government has provided Scottish councils with some flexibility around council tax this year, any further increases in council tax would fall far short of what is needed to plug our budget gap of £9.8m and significant budget cuts would still be needed.

“We have taken the decision therefore not to raise council tax further because we recognise that finances remain tight for families not just councils, and it delivers on a promise made to West Lothian Council taxpayers.

“We believe that further increases in council tax at this time would only place greater strain on hard pressed family finances and we believe that our council tax freeze in 2017/18 will be welcomed by the majority of households, as will consultation on future decisions over the next five years.”

He added: We are confident that we are making the right choices for our communities and that our residents’ aspirations are reflected in our budget.

“Our aim in setting this budget is to ensure that we find a balance between delivering important services and supporting local families as they also look to balance their own household budgets in tough times.”

Seventeen councils have set their rates to date:

Freeze:

  • South Lanarkshire Council
  • Renfrewshire Council
  • Inverclyde Council
  • West Lothian Council
  • 2.5% rise:

    • Aberdeenshire Council
    • 3% rise:

      • Comhairle Nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles) Council
      • Midlothian Council
      • Edinburgh City Council
      • Borders Council
      • East Renfrewshire Council
      • Moray Council
      • Shetland Council
      • Glasgow City Council
      • Fife Council
      • Angus Council
      • Highland Council
      • East Lothian Council
      • All of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have until March 2 to set their tax and spending plans for the next financial year.

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