CUTS to nursery staff provision, charges for adult services, and a reduction of additional support for learning services are all identified as proposed money savers in the first draft of East Lothian Council’s Labour administration budget.

The council’s chief finance officer has said they face a £6.5million funding gap over the next financial year after the Scottish Government reduced its revenue support grant by 2.4 per cent.

And the administration are forecasting that over the next three years they will have to find savings of around £28million to operate public services.

The administration’s draft budget will be discussed at a meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday, in Haddington Town House.

As well as identifying areas they want to cut, it includes more than £3million in as yet unidentified cuts which are described as “service reduction subject to the finalisation of the Local Government Finance settlement”.

The Scottish Government will not finalise its budget, which includes revenue support funding for local authorities, until after the council budget is agreed.

But it is hoped it will give some of the £2.04million taken away from East Lothian Council back to them after the Scottish Greens opposed local authority cuts.

The administration says the unidentified service reductions would all be withdrawn if that money is returned which is why there is little detail.

However they include cost-savings of nearly £1.3million from schools.

There are also proposals to charge for music lessons and increase the cost of school meals.

The minority administration will need cross party support to approve its budget.

Councillor Brian Small, opposition leader (Cons) said his group were determined to ensure frontline services were protected while SNP group leader Councillor Stuart Currie described the administration budget plans as a “car crash”.

Mr Small said: "We note the proposals with interest and will now be spending time to analyse the proposals. We will be arranging to have discussions with all relevant parties to make sure an appropriate budget is put in place with as much protection as possible to maintain frontline services to the people of East Lothian."

Among cost-saving measures outlined in the draft budget, which covers three years from 2018 to 2021, are

  • £550,000 cut in nursery staff provision over the next two years
  • £126,000 cut in family support workers
  • £200,000 cut in therapeutic services next year for additional support for learning
  • £916,000 in revenue to be brought in bycharging for some adult services

The administration has said the cuts to the nursery staff budget will not mean a loss of service but will enhance the skilled workers already in place.

And they said family support workers were expected to be replaced by Scottish Government plans for school services.

There are also proposals to close Macmerry recycling centre and seek £126,000 with a review of the county's public toilets as well.

Councillor Norman Hampshire, depute council leader, said: "We have continued to defend and protect the vital public services which so many people across East Lothian rely on.

“But as this draft budget demonstrates, we are operating in an increasingly challenging financial climate. Funding from central government makes up more than 70% of our total budget. Like many other councils, we’ve already seen a reduction in the amount of funding available to us.

"“Parliamentary figures signal that our revenue funding is being reduced by 2.4% next year. Taking everything into consideration we face a budget gap in 2018/19 of £6.5million, rising to £11.8 million in 2020/21.

“This means the council faces some very difficult choices in the years ahead. We are grateful to local residents for responding to the recent consultation, which put forward some possible options from officers which would help us address these challenges.

“Draft budget proposals on behalf of the Administration have now been put forward. These seek, as far as possible, to help our children achieve their potential, support older and vulnerable people, protect the environment and build the local economy.

“However, we are under no illusions about the fact that savings need to be made or additional revenue raised. The Cabinet meeting is an opportunity to discuss these proposals, with a view to building support across the chamber for a budget which enable us to deal with these very real pressures while continuing to focus on our vision of an even more prosperous, safe and sustainable East Lothian.”

The council held two public consultations - one involved eight focus groups in Musselburgh, Haddington and Tranent which involved 52 participants, the other received 920 responses to an online survey in which it presented 15 'hard choices' to people for feedback.

READ MORE: 15 hard choices for public to consider

Of those the most popular options were plans to rationalise and review council assets and office provision, followed by the introduction of charging for uplifts of bulky items and transfer of management of village halls to the community.

More than one in four respondents to the online survey were also in favour of a review of car parking charges.

The least popular options were closing rural schools with less than 50 per cent capacity, which has already been ruled out by the administration, charging for adult social care services, which is included in the draft budget and cuts to school crossing patrols, which have also been ruled out.

Councillor Stuart Currie said the administration's proposed budget should be binned.

He said: “ Labour councillors are now proposing to introduce an austerity budget that will see hundreds of jobs lost, huge increases in charges for the elderly and disabled.

"Labour have also decided that how much money you have will determine if you can have instrumental music tuition in our schools. These massive cuts by Labour to local services in East Lothian is the political choice they have made.

"We believe these choices are not only wrong but demonstrate that this minority administration has ran out of ideas and innovation after only 8 months.

"This budget is so bad that it is almost impossible to amend, it needs to be ripped up and a new budget presented to the council in February that seeks to protect our services and the most vulnerable in our communities. Anything less will be unacceptable to SNP Councillors and the communities we serve.”