Council services to be decimated says leader

Friday February 1st 2019

Fairfield House

Midlothian Council Leader, Councillor Derek Milligan, is warning that despite yesterday’s announcement by Finance Minister Derek Mackay of changes to the Scottish Government’s grant settlement, Midlothian councillors are still having to consider savings measures to bridge a £7.408 million budget gap which will “decimate” local services.

Councillor Milligan, said yesterday’s announcement did little to ease funding pressures exacerbated by Midlothian’s status as Scotland’s fastest growing local authority.

He said: “What is being sold as an increase of £90 million in funding for local government simply means that the huge cut in local authority budgets is slightly less huge. In Midlothian, we are still faced with a 1.5% cut when our population growth requires that spending increases considerably.

“Even if councillors agree to increase Council Tax by the 4.79% allowed by the government, we’re still facing devastating decisions on jobs and services.

“Given the severity of the grant settlement announced last December officers have had to bring forward a set of measures which are, quite frankly, catastrophic.

“I along with other Council Leaders in the Lothian’s have written to Mr Mackay asking for an urgent, independent review on how local authorities are funded. In the meantime though, all 18 elected members of this council have no choice but to consider these savings measures at the next full Council meeting on Tuesday 12 February to bridge the £7.408 million shortfall in our finances that still remains.”

The measures all councillors are facing include:

– Closing Dalkeith, Newtongrange and Gorebridge libraries
– Ending funding for the Community Safety and Midlothian Community Policing teams
– Cutting the school crossing guide service
– Closing all five public toilets
– Closing Penicuik Recycling Centre
– Closing Danderhall, Gorebridge and Newtongrange leisure centres
– Stopping the Active Schools service
– Stopping all funding for gala days
– Closing Vogrie golf course
– Consulting on the future of Glencorse Primary School
– Reducing creative arts provision in schools
– Reducing roads and property maintenance

Councillor Milligan said the Administration had put forward a budget last year that avoided many of the cuts that are back on the table again this year.

He said: “It’s horrendous that the continued underfunding of this council by Scottish Government means we find ourselves in an even more acute position”.

“The combination of a cut in grant imposed by Scottish Government and an increasing demand for our services, which the government don’t seem to want to recognise, has caused a perfect financial storm.

“Even after yesterday’s announcement, we’re facing an overall budget shortfall from April of £9.739 million. This is the difference between what the council needs to spend next year to keep services at current levels, and what we expect to get. Even with a full 4.79% increase in Council Tax, along with plans to generate additional income, increase charges and continue to transform the way services operate, we are still looking at cuts in local services in Midlothian of over £7.408 million.

“While the majority of local authorities are also facing similar cuts, Midlothian’s position is particularly acute, given we are the fastest growing local authority in Scotland.”

Councillor Milligan is urging the public to write to their local MSP demanding a fairer funding mechanism is put in place recognising the exceptional population growth in the Lothians.

Full details of Midlothian Council’s budget proposals, which also include a recommendation officers present a four-year financial strategy, detailing planned and balanced budgets to 2023/24, can be found by reading the Financial Strategy Report (8.3) HERE

All the papers for the Council meeting on the 12th February can be found HERE.

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