ONE in four residents in East Lothian cannot afford to keep £500 aside to cover emergency expenses as the number of people who say they are managing their finances well drops.

A survey of households in the county has revealed that fewer than 20 per cent of people believe they are coping ‘very well’ with their finances.

The number of people who say they are doing ‘quite well’ has dropped from 55 per cent in 2017 to just 34 per cent in 2019.

Only one per cent, however, admitted to having financial difficulties.

The results are part of a residents’ survey which was carried out by East Lothian Council and saw more than 1,600 people interviewed about their experiences living in the county.

Despite the impact on household finances in recent years, most residents said that they had enough money to keep their homes in a decent state of decoration, free from damp, and meet any rental demand.

However, when asked if they would be able to access or save £500 for a sudden expense, 24 per cent admitted they could not.

Peter Dicker, manager at East Lothian Foodbank, said that figure matched up with the foodbank’s experience.

He told the Courier: “This statistic is quite worrying and we are aware here at East Lothian Foodbank that approximately 25 per cent of referrals that benefit from the support of the foodbank come here due to low income, so this would match what the survey has uncovered.

“Based on our June figures, out of 168 three-day emergency food parcels that were given out, 25 per cent of these were due to low income, which matches the statistic.”

East Lothian MP Martin Whitfield said: “An increasing number of households are struggling financially because of the rising cost of living, stagnating wages and cuts to benefits.

“The fact that so many people are unable to put aside some savings is deeply concerning because it can leave them in real trouble if an emergency occurs.

“Anyone finding it hard to get by should seek advice from the Citizens’ Advice network or the council’s welfare rights service initially, for checks on entitlement to energy grants, council tax reductions or social security benefits.

“Residents experiencing problems with Universal Credit or other benefits can also get help from my office.”

The survey revealed a strong feeling of community among people living in the county, with more than half having spent their entire lives in East Lothian.

More than half described feeling a strong sense of belonging in their local community, with 98 per cent describing their local neighbourhood as fairly good.

The number of people expressing a close bond with their communities has increased from 38 per cent in 2017 to 54 per cent now.

The survey also found people supporting their local communities in their day-to-day actions, with 88 per cent saying they actively reduce, reuse or recycle waste as much as they can and 77 per cent saying they look out for their neighbours.

A further 70 per cent said they supported local businesses by shopping locally whenever possible.

The full findings of the survey, which was last carried out in 2017, have been published on East Lothian Council’s website.