Five-year financial strategy approved by East Lothian Council


East Lothian council is committed to ensuring rent levels remain affordable for tenants, as councilors have agreed to update financial and investment strategies for the next five years.

Head of Council Norman Hampshire

The financial strategy aims to support a broad transformation agenda that protects essential services in the face of growing financial challenges and recognizes that in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the board must review how it uses assets such as buildings to support the track services are provided and maximize income.

Maintaining good financial control, continuing to advance partnership opportunities and focusing on prevention and early intervention to reduce inequalities, are other important aspects of the strategy.

The council will also continue to support a capital investment program aligned with local priorities, working to stimulate economic growth and minimize borrowing.

Head of Council Norman Hampshire said: “Every household in East Lothian will recognize the importance of the Council having clear plans in place to continue to effectively manage its finances, while focusing on priorities such as protecting and improving the environment, giving children and young people the best possible start in life and supporting vulnerable people.

“The housing tax paid by local households contributes about a quarter of the money we need for our income budget, the majority of the funding coming from the national government. But financial pressures have continued to grow, and with increasing demand and increasing costs, the amount of funding we have does not keep up with the scale of service delivery.

“These challenges have been compounded by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is why the board must rely on its work to become more and more entrepreneurial, efficient and effective.

“Our five-year financial strategy gives us a solid platform to build on to deliver essential services in a way that continues to be sustainable and meets the needs and expectations of our communities. “

Although subject to a separate budget, the local authority said the financial strategy for managing its housing budget will focus on keeping rent levels affordable for tenants, working with partners to meet affordable housing needs. , reduction of rent arrears and the establishment of a new housing management system. to improve long-term planning and provide better customer service.

At the same time, the capital investment strategy provides insight into how capital spending plans, capital funding, and cash management activity contribute to the infrastructure needed to support local services. Its aim is to firmly place borrowing decisions in the context of the overall long-term financial position of the city council and to improve the linkages between revenue and capital budgets.

Holding an adequate level of reserves to deal with unforeseen costs is a key management tool for the implementation of the financial strategy, the council added. In determining medium-term financial plans and preparing budgets, the council stated that it should consider building and maintaining reserves in accordance with its statutory powers.

Councilor Hampshire added: “It is important that boards hold reserves as a measure of financial security. This is especially important for unexpected events or emergencies that cannot be anticipated.

“Although we have already used reserves to balance the annual budget, it is not considered prudent practice in terms of managing recurrent expenses.

“We need to be able to maintain reserves in order to be resilient and to ensure effective financial planning for the benefit of the communities that depend on our essential services.”

Advisors also received an update on budgeting for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, with details on specific government funding allocations for the councils which are expected to be available later this month.

Draft budget proposals are expected to be considered by cabinet in January 2022, with the possibility of amendments submitted before a plenary council meeting to approve the budget for 2022/23 (including setting municipal taxes and rent levels ) to be held on March 1. .

The announcement comes as the board released a summary of its performance against the four main goals of the East Lothian Board Plan 2017-2022.

The council plan committed the council to achieving four goals to make East Lothian a better place:

  • Develop your economy
  • Make your people grow
  • Developing your communities
  • Increase the board’s capacity to deliver

Council chief Norman Hampshire said: ‘The annual report describes the progress the council has made towards meeting its goals and commitments, but it is very clear how the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected this progress.

“The East Lothian council, following the declaration of the pandemic in March 2020, invoked its business continuity plans which prioritized our frontline services such as protective services, education , waste management services and social services. We have also activated our resilient community groups whose collective efforts have helped us protect vulnerable children, the elderly and those most at risk from the virus.

“As the past year has been so dominated by the pandemic, it is difficult to fully assess the board’s performance against set targets, but the board also monitors the quality of its services using a range of ‘performance indicators that help to set goals and to measure the local authority against councils of similar size. Among the comparable data available, the East Lothian board maintained or improved its performance in 68% of these metrics, with 32% showing a decline in performance.

“Again, the impact of the pandemic has had a big influence on some of the reduced performance such as an increase in anti-social behavior and COVID-related calls, especially during times of lockdown. The council is now focused on post-pandemic recovery and there are already signs of some improvement. Although unemployment in East Lothian fell from 2.6% in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic to 5.4% in March 2021, more recent figures show an improvement to around 4% in July and then to 3, 5% in October 2021.

“Like other local authorities, East Lothian Council continued to provide services through an extended period of financial hardship. The additional funding received to support pandemic responses has been welcomed, but it is clear that in order to maintain our services at current levels we have to make some very difficult choices if financial plans and budgets are to be balanced. “

The 2021 annual report on performance and “the state of the Board” can be consulted in line.

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