East Lothian Labour Party’s campaign against the SNP’s council tax grab has ended in success after SNP Finance Secretary Derek MacKay announced a U-turn on his plans in last week’s draft budget.
However, despite the council tax U-turn, East Lothian Council’s budget is still facing a significant cut following the Finance Secretary’s decision to reduce central funding for the county by over £6 million.
During his budget speech Mr MacKay announced that he will drop plans to claw back additional revenue raised by increasing the top council tax bands and instead fund the additional education investment from Scottish Government central funding. East Lothian Labour has been campaigning for exactly this change since the council tax band increases were first announced earlier in the year.
But the cuts inflicted by Mr MacKay in other areas of the Council’s funding are set to significantly outweigh the additional council tax revenue, leaving the Council facing more tough decisions on local funding in the year ahead.
Cllr Jim Goodfellow, Chair of East Lothian Labour Party, said:
“This council tax grab climbdown is good news for East Lothian Council and the county’s residents. The SNP Finance Secretary has been shamed into accepting that his plan to claw back the revenue raised by increasing the top council tax bands was unfair, undemocratic and unpopular.
“We have consistently made the case for all of the additional funds raised in East Lothian to stay here so that it can be invested in local services. Hundreds of local people supported our campaign, but until this budget U-turn Mr Mackay and his SNP colleagues here had seen no problem with his council tax grab plan.”
Labour Leader Cllr Willie Innes added:
“What Derek MacKay has done with this budget is give with one hand, with his council tax U-turn, but take away with the other, by significantly reducing the central funding allocated to East Lothian. This means that rather than the additional council tax revenue being extra funds for us to invest in services, we will be forced to make significant cuts to services.
“The Scottish Government received £418 million extra from the UK Government. So this is Holyrood’s austerity forcing councils to cut services affecting our local communities. We will continue to do our utmost to protect East Lothian’s vital frontline services. But with year on year cuts to our funding, it is getting harder every year to maintain the services that local people want and need.”