PUBLIC buildings across East Lothian may have their heat turned down as councillors are told ‘doing nothing’ about deepening financial strain is not an option.

A report by East Lothian Council’s financial chiefs warns that they are looking at an £18 million overspend this year – £5 million more than they had planned to plug.

And it puts forward a range of cost-cutting measures, from suspending capital projects to setting all public buildings' thermostats to 18 degrees and introducing energy ‘champions’ to oversee them.

The report, which will be put before a special meeting of the full council next week, calls on the council leader to write to the UK and Scottish Governments setting out the financial situation that the council is facing.

And it warns: “The magnitude and range of the combined financial pressures facing the council is now at a level that we have not experienced in recent years, with no significant prospect that the external financial environment will improve in the foreseeable future, and many of these pressures likely to be recurring in nature.

“There now remains an urgent need to explore further mitigating actions with a view to containing the scale of current overspend caused largely by these external factors.”

'Urgent and honest conversation'

The report, which has been produced by four of the council’s most senior finance officers, including the head of finance Ellie Dunnet and executive director Sarah Fortune, tells councillors ‘doing nothing’ is not an option.

And it says: “If no additional funding is made available to support local services and communities, an urgent and honest conversation is now needed as to how local government and East Lothian Council is currently funded, and what policy commitments can be prioritised.”

The report sets out measures to further mitigate the budget deficit caused by, among other things, rising inflation, energy costs, and costs of materials and labour.

They include “exploring opportunities to pause non-committed spend projects” and a proposal to “maintain the temperature in all public buildings at 18 degrees max where possible” and “introduce energy champions in all public buildings and explore the option of community champions”.

Councillors will be asked to approve the recommendation of the report during the meeting on Tuesday.