THE future of some rural primary schools could be in doubt while further county car parking charges are being considered as East Lothian Council attempts to save almost £40 million over the next five years.

A county-wide consultation has been opened urging East Lothian residents to have their say on how the local authority spends its money, ahead of the council budget being set in February.

Councillors are facing “tough choices” with 15 “budget saving options” included in the consultation.

The full list can be seen here.

Among those is the closure of any rural school which has pupil numbers below 50 per cent of the school’s maximum capacity – at the moment both Humbie and Stenton Primary Schools come under that criteria.

Another option would be to limit the provision of free home to school transport for secondary pupils who live over three miles from school, rather than two miles as is currently the case.

The issue has been raised before and former Councillor David Berry was challenged to “get on his bike” seven years ago in a bid to show the road between Ormiston and Tranent was safe for schoolchildren. In response, the Labour party, who were the opposition at the time, launched a campaign against the idea.

Another potential idea is to look at parking charges.

The consultation document states: “This could include an increase to existing car parking charges.

“We could explore options for introduction of any new charges including on/off street parking if these are supported and aligned to a need derived from a wider transportation/parking strategy.”

READ MORE: 15 options the council is considering to save money

A council spokesman said some of the options had “potential workforce implications” but added: “It is important to stress that there are no firm proposals and absolutely no decisions have been made.”

East Lothian Courier:

Stenton Primary School could be at risk

Councillor Norman Hampshire (Lab), council deputy leader, said: “The consultation presents some possible options which would help us address the challenges posed by reductions in the amount of funding available to us, while at the same time working in conjunction with our communities and residents to focus on our priorities and protect the most vulnerable.

“Absolutely no decisions have been made and not every option will necessarily be implemented.

“They do, however, highlight the kind of challenges and tough choices faced by councillors across Scotland.

“For example, I would like to protect services such as rural schools which are greatly valued by their communities.

“But if we are to deliver a balanced budget and keep such facilities open, we will need to make savings or raise additional revenue elsewhere.

“So it’s important for residents to have their say.”

READ MORE: Deputy council leader on why the council has to make major cuts

Tightening finances have been squeezing local authorities in recent years, with councils the length and breadth of the country looking to see what they can do to balance the books. In East Lothian, £24 million has been saved over the past five years.

Mr Hampshire added: “Like many other councils, we face further – and significant – reductions in Government grant funding.

“Council officers anticipate needing to make savings of around £39 million over the next five years.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government has treated local government very fairly despite cuts from the UK Government. Councils will receive funding through local government finance settlement of more than £10.4 billion for 2017-18.

“Taken together with a range of other measures this amounts to £383 million – or 3.7 per cent – in additional support for local authority services compared to 2016-17.

“East Lothian Council’s share amounted to an extra £9.4 million or 5.3 per cent.

“Local council budgets for 2018-19 will be confirmed in December.”

Mr Hampshire has already called for a cross-party effort in a bid to create a budget to safeguard public services.

Councillor Brian Small, leader of the opposition Conservative group on the council, said: “We continue to work in an extremely difficult financial environment caused primarily by continual central grant cuts imposed on councils by the SNP Government.

“The East Lothian Conservatives will work hard to protect services that support people and businesses.”

Councillor Stuart Currie, leader of the SNP group on the council, said: “The council budget will be, as it has been every year, challenging.

“Sadly the Scottish Government budget is being cut in real terms by the UK Government, which is bound to have an impact.

“The fact that no one political group has a majority means that there will need to be compromise and negotiation which we will fully engage with all parties on.”

To have your say on the budget proposals, go to

Meanwhile, local Labour councillors have launched a petition to save services.

The party issued a statement urging people to sign its petition at