We are only three weeks away from the local elections, with councillors here and across Scotland to be elected on 5 May. Given the vital importance of the services delivered by councils – including schools, social care, housing, roads, waste and leisure – it has always struck me as odd that turnouts at local elections are usually lower than for parliamentary elections.
I am hopeful that the additional importance of councils during the pandemic and particularly through lockdown, when they gave essential support to local resilience activities and helped keep people fed and supported, will contribute to greater interest in the elections this time.
There are certainly many good reasons for East Lothian residents to vote this May. For a start, despite being one of the fastest growing authorities in Scotland with significant new housing developments imposed on us by SNP government targets, East Lothian has seen year-on-year cuts to the revenue funding received from government.
Scottish Government funding accounts for the largest share of the Council’s income, so these cuts have inevitably impacted on what the Council has been able to do, at a time when it is being asked to do more than ever. These funding cuts are also part of a Scotland-wide picture which local authority leaders say has resulted in around £1 billion being slashed from council budgets over the last decade.
The election is also taking place against the backdrop of the worst cost of living crisis in decades, which has left households struggling with unaffordable bills, rising fuel costs, and expensive weekly food shops. Addressing this crisis should be the priority at every level of government.
I know that the Labour team in East Lothian is committed to putting the issues that matter to you, your family and your community first.
That is why our local manifesto is focused on protecting services, supporting communities and boosting the economy and jobs to build the future together.