LATER this month, your doormat will be graced by a council tax bill for the next year. It will be the biggest you have ever seen – especially for the 16 per cent among us who inhabit our leafier suburbs, who will discover a zinging premium charge for living there. It will be as much as five times the three per cent rise visited on more modest homes.

East Lothian Council’s Labour administration blames all this on the Scottish Government. But only the 16 per cent’s premium can fairly be laid at their door.

On February 21, the council chamber rang to laments from one wailing Labour councillor after another that we were all being short-changed by the Government and our services would suffer. Hands were wrung and indignation voiced that this year’s national settlement for councils was to have been reduced by £360 million, even though intervention by the Green Party (not Labour) had pared this back to a £160 million reduction. This resulted in East Lothian’s share dropping from £169 to £166 million. All true.

And all revealed as posturing poppycock when exposed to the facts.

In reality, the council’s settlement is much more generous than these crocodile tears imply.

Though their grant has dropped by £3 million, the additional income from squeezing the top 16 per cent of residents offsets this entirely. Add in £0.7m in additional revenue from new houses, the £1m taken from council tenants and £1.4m for social integration, plus £2.5m taken from bulging reserves, not to mention £3m direct to schools, means that they are ahead by around £8m with no council tax rise whatsoever.

As a result, there is little basis to justify a 3 per cent council tax rise across the board. The resulting £1.5m from the pockets of hard-pressed residents, including those at the lower end of the income scale, is simply grabbing money for the sake of it. Considering that other sources of income, such as the £1m extra for education or the several million available from a more business-like posture, as outlined in my previous two columns, were ignored, there can be little justification for such daylight robbery.

Strangely enough, three Labour-run councils (Inverclyde, Renfrew, and South Lanarkshire) have found it possible to balance the books with no increase in council tax. The fact that our worthies seem incapable of similar sound fiscal management reveals them to be tholed in Old Labour thinking. They profess to be champions of the vulnerable and yet seem capable only of throwing money at problems with scant understanding of prudent fiscal management.