Wednesday May 8th 2019
Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp
Councillor Jim Muirhead, acting leader of Midlothian Council, has accused Midlothian’s politicians of spreading “misinformation” after they claimed the local authority received “inflation busting” funding from the Scottish Government this year.
Councillor Muirhead said the county’s two MSPs were too busy ‘toeing the party line” when they should be representing their local residents.
His comments came after fellow Labour councillor John Hackett asked about public statements he said had been made by MSPs Christine Grahame and Colin Beattie and Midlothian SNP Group, which said the local authority had received an increase of nearly six per cent in funding.
Mr Muirhead told council chambers:
“In a recent leaflet circulated the SNP have claimed that the Scottish Government have provided Midlothian with an extra £10.35million in funding.
“To come to that figure they have actually included the £2.3million this council received in council tax, therefore not from the Scottish Government, and indeed the leaflet criticised this council for collecting council tax at the level that it did.
“So quite blatant misinformation being circulated by the SNP group and by our MSPs in correspondence.”
Mr Muirhead went on to say the SNP leaflets had described their funding as good for the county and inflation busting.
He said: “Far from being inflation busting the settlement actually represents a clear cut in our core funding of £1.48million.
“Our two Midlothian MSPs appear to be more intent on toeing the party line than standing up for the people of Midlothian who they are elected to represent.”
Midlothian Council had to make cuts and savings to meet a £9.7million shortfall in its budget this year.
It has said the Scottish Government grant which makes up the bulk of its funding alongside council tax was actually reduced by £1.5million once additional responsibilities handed to local authorities as part of the funding were taken into account.
Mr Muirhead said he and council leader Councillor Derek Milligan, who is currently on leave, had both provided information about the council’s financial situation to its MSPs before Scottish Government voted on its budget and sat down with Mr Beattie.
However Mr Muirhead said Ms Grahame had “declined to attend” the meeting.
In response Ms Grahame said she has repeatedly asked Mr Miliigan and Mr Muirhead if they had taken their case to COSLA (the body overseeing local authorities in Scotland) who she said set the model which decided how much each council received.
Responding to Mr Muirhead’s comments, Ms Grahame said:
“Councillor Muirhead’s claims are full of bluster and avoid the questions I have now posed on four occasions with no answers.
“As COSLA agrees the funding settlement for all 32 council areas and then allocates on an agreed formula to individual councils including Midlothian, it is up to council leaders to argue their corner for their settlement.
“For the fourth time I have asked how many COSLA meetings were attended by Midlothian Council leadership, the latest time on 15th April to which I have yet to receive a response, not even an acknowledgement.
“Could it be that these Labour councillors didn’t bother challenge the Midlothian settlement at COSLA?
“I think their silence and distraction tactics speak volumes.”Tweet Share on Facebook