LAST week, around 40,000 homes across East Lothian received their annual billet-doux from the council notifying them of the council tax due.

The bottom line? An almost 4.8 per cent rise. Short of breaking out the pitchforks and torches to march on John Muir House, there’s nowt we can do but emigrate.

Before you do, realise just one quarter of East Lothian Council (ELC) spend comes from council tax (the rest comes from Holyrood) and that 26 per cent of what you pay goes nowhere near the council but are water and sewerage ELC levies for Scottish Water.

In this, Scotland’s fastest-growing council area, the basic grant (no strings attached) actually fell 0.1 per cent. A £5,476,000 rise in ‘specific grants’ means ELC gets the money, but has no choice where to spend it. By raising council tax an extra £3.625m gives ELC a war chest of £248,116,000.

So what does it do with £6,203 per home in the county (housing is treated separately and will be covered later)?

The biggest chunk is the £102.5m on education. Look for this to jump even higher, now that the EIS union has secured a 13 per cent pay rise for teachers.

Hidden within this is the hefty £8m now being paid each year to PFI contractor FES Services for running our high schools for profit.

The next biggest chunk is for adult and children’s services (i.e. social work), which comes in at £61.7m.

Our ageing residents and increased services means this swells each year.

Which leaves only one third to fund everything else. Bun fights over parking charges are the result. Argyll & Bute now charge £9 to park at The Cobbler – gives new meaning to ‘Rest and Be Thankful’.

This year’s penny-pinching includes taking £881,000 from property maintenance, £221,000 profit on building work for the (separate) housing side and the £231,000 cut from economic development may well cripple great events like the 3 Harbours or Lammermuir Festival.

There is also some ‘pink-elephant’ wishful thinking, such as £600,000 from “new ways of working”, £1.3m from “senior management review”, and an even less repeatable £3m from reserves. Scary.

For eight years, ELC has balked at radical re-organisation necessary to achieve such savings – they also struggle at profiting from operation (see what a success The Loft Cafe & Bakery in Haddington is now, compared to the money-sink when ELC ran it).

It is a lot of money, £248m. But expect to hear the squeal of pips under pressure before the end of the year.