CUTS to an elderly care home and a day centre have been blasted by critics who have accused East Lothian Council chiefs of failing to protect the most vulnerable residents.
The cash grab by the Labour-Conservative administration will see funding for a new Haddington Day Centre and investment in the Abbey care home axed as part of a £1.2 million spending cut on adult social care.
The administration’s spending plans for the next three years were given the green light at a council meeting yesterday, as opposition leaders warned that residents would “never forgive” council chiefs.
Voluntary group funding in adult wellbeing is also being slashed by £150,000, while £82,000 is being taken from children’s voluntary groups, which includes East Lothian Special Needs Playgroup.
Free school meals for P1-P3 pupils in selected primary schools will also be scrapped to save £66,000.
Hundreds of primary school pupils in parts of Musselburgh, Prestonpans and Tranent stand to miss out when the meals are withdrawn.
The Labour and Conservative council coalition budget has been criticised by SNP councillors, who said some services could be forced to shut down.
Dunbar and East Linton councillor Paul McLennan, the SNP group leader, said: “The major losers are schools because they are cutting £500,000 from the devolved school budget.
“East Lothian Special Needs – can it continue with this cut? I would doubt it. It is the most vulnerable in our society who are being affected.”
Cllr Stuart Currie, SNP member for Musselburgh East and Carberry, warned the administration that people would “never forget” what the budget would do to the “elderly, most vulnerable in East Lothian”. He said: “They will never forgive.”
Council leader Willie Innes said council tax bills would be frozen at the current level for a sixth consecutive year, with the Band D council tax for 2013-14 remaining at £1117.62.
Cllr Innes said: “There is no doubt that the council, in common with other public sector bodies, is facing some serious financial challenges, with the amount of funding available for services currently forecast to drop from £195.7m to around £191.4m over the next three years.”
Cllr Innes announced an additional £1m in support for business, including new apprenticeships and training schemes.
Additional funding of £120,000 was also approved to support local festivals and tourism events, while £900,000 has been earmarked for town centre regeneration over the next two years.
A total of £850,000 will be spent over three years on town parking improvements and an extra £900,000 has been approved over the same period for coastal and flood protection schemes.
But the services for communities budget, which includes planning, housing, roads and transport, waste services and property maintenance, will be cut by more than two per cent to just over £30m.
VOLUNTARY REDUNDANCIES SOUGHT
A VOLUNTARY early release scheme for council staff will be introduced to “streamline the workforce and cut costs” as part of East Lothian’s spending cuts. The scheme is intended to save £3 million within two years.
The first phase – in 2013-14 – aims to save £2m, with at least 65-70 employees expected to be released early.
East Lothian Council said applications will only be approved if they are affordable, and where the impact on the service is kept to a minimum.
Brunton Theatre Trust, which received annual funding from East Lothian Council, will lose £50,000. The Musselburgh theatre recently received a multi-million pound makeover.
The council is also set to reduce some museum opening times.