COUNCIL tenants in East Lothian face a rent rise of five per cent next year after the local authority agreed a budget which also freezes the council tax and cuts police funding.
The 2016-17 budget will be balanced by the transfer of £3 million from reserves.
East Lothian’s Labour-Conservative administration said it was protecting spending on key services such as schools and social care.
But the SNP opposition said the budget was a list of missed opportunities.
The administration said the rent rise – which will take the average rent to £57.10 a week – would allow £112m investment in modernising council homes and an increase in new affordable housing across the county.
Housing leader Norman Hampshire said: “East Lothian Council aims to continue improving its housing stock and in the coming years there will be an increased focus on improving energy efficiency. This will help make tenants’ homes warmer and cheaper to heat which will also help reduce fuel poverty.”
He also pointed out county rents were still below the national average.
The SNP backed the rent rise but criticised the administration’s decision to take £2.5m from the rents income to help pay for other council services.
The council also agreed a £400,000 cut in the cash given to Police Scotland for additional officers.
SNP leader Stuart Currie said: “The SNP brought in neighbourhood police teams for Prestonpans, Tranent and Musselburgh and a community action team that could be deployed across East Lothian.
“Altogether it’s ten constables and two sergeants. Now these teams will have to be disbanded.
“Crime may be at a record low, but in the last few months there have been spates of break-ins, vandalism and a range of antisocial behaviour.”
Cllr Currie said that there was also an effective reduction in spending on the elderly and disabled because, while the council was due to receive £4.4m of new money from the Scottish Government for health and social care, it planned to reduce its own budget on adult wellbeing by around £5m.
The administration said it had identified efficiency savings of around £500,000.
Council leader, Labour’s Willie Innes said: “In common with other local authorities across the country, East Lothian Council is facing serious financial challenges in the years ahead as a result of unacceptable cuts imposed by the Scottish Government.
“Through the sound financial management of the council finances over the past three years, we are able to be in a position where we can protect vital public services and jobs from the worst excesses of SNP austerity.
“Our budget will enable us to invest in the county’s future through increased provision for education and promoting the local economy.
“Local residents expect the council to protect front-line services and I strongly believe our budget will continue to support our communities and protect the most vulnerable from the austerity measures being imposed upon us.”
Depute leader, Tory Michael Veitch, added: “This year’s budget has necessitated some hard choices as we attempt to protect services while keeping costs down.”