EAST Lothian Council’s chief finance officer has warned, just three months into the financial year, that the local authority is at risk of overspending its budget.

Jim Lamond, head of council resources, said that a review of the first quarter spending for the current year had already flagged up areas over budget.

And he warned that the council was unlikely to meet its target of savings of £5million, with early estimates suggesting a £300,000 shortfall.

He told a council meeting: “The council is currently at risk of overspending in the current financial year. It is early days. The council management team remains actively engaged around the financial position of the council, including the delivery of planned efficiency savings, and are seeking alternative proposals to ensure that, as much as possible, council services can be contained within approved budget levels.”

The Health and Social Care Directorate, which covers adult and children’s services, was one area ‘in the red’.

It reported already being £440,000 over its budget by the end of June, while other areas including housing and education reported underspends.

Mr Lamond warned that the overspend on social care was not likely to recover and would become bigger throughout the year as demand for care packages grew.

He said discussions between East Lothian Integration Joint Board and NHS Lothian, which jointly fund the services, were ongoing about future funding as they drive forward a policy to provide care at home as much as possible.

Councillor Brian Small (Conservative) warned that the local authority needed to find a solution to meeting health and care demands.

He said: “We need to continue to look at taking emergency measures to deal with the health and social care partnership situation.”

But Councillor Stuart Currie, SNP Group leader, warned that only way to recover an overspend was by charging people.

He said: “Talk of a recovery programme means increased charges and cutting services. We need to know what such a programme would involve.”

Councillor Willie Innes (Labour), council leader, said it was time to look for new ways to tackle funding issues.

He said: “There is no doubt that local government resources have been going down every year and it has been very hard, and the fact the government controls what we can bring in by council tax does not help.

“It is no good just going on about that, though, it does not solve the problem.

“We have a history in East Lothian of meeting these challenges and we owe a great debt of gratitude to our staff.”