As you read this, East Lothian Council’s budget for 2023/24 will have been set. This year all councils are facing unprecedented funding challenges. This is due to a mixture of sustained cuts by the Scottish Government, soaring energy costs, record inflation levels and growing demand on services.
Despite having one of the fastest growing populations in Scotland, East Lothian has suffered more than most on its core government funding. We are the third lowest out of 32 authorities for funding by head of population, with only Aberdeen and Edinburgh worse off.
That matters because core government revenue funding accounts for around three-quarters of East Lothian’s total budget. The Council Tax makes up most of the rest, demonstrating the limited control councils have over how they raise their income. The enforced Council Tax freeze over many years, coupled with year-on-year real terms funding cuts, sustained population growth and the inflationary pressures all councils are dealing with have left East Lothian Council in a tough situation.
Without the drastic measures proposed in the budget, core services and those who need them the most would suffer, which is why I support my council colleagues. But I will also continue to fight for East Lothian to get its fair share of future funding.
Scottish politics was rocked by Nicola Sturgeon’s surprise resignation as First Minister. Early on in her tenure as First Minister Ms Sturgeon declared that her “defining mission” was closing the attainment gap between pupils living in the least deprived areas and those in the most deprived. However, the latest statistics show the poverty-related attainment gap remains wider than in 2018/19.
By her own benchmark, Ms Sturgeon’s record on education, like so much during her time in office, was one of failure. Her departure is an opportunity to reset politics here. Scotland deserves better than it has had under the SNP. Change is possible and Scottish Labour can deliver it.