Council Tax to rise again by 3% but financial issues continue

Wednesday October 3rd 2018

Midlothian Council

Current projections show that Midlothian Council will have £201.4 million available to fund services next year.

Talking into account the money the council receives from the Scottish Government, at a time of increased demand for key services such as education and social care, means that this is £5.25 million short of what is needed.

A report presented to councillors this week estimates that this gap could rise to £23.2 million by 2022/23.

The council’s Head of Finance and Integrated Service Support, Gary Fairley, highlighted the severity of the financial position in a report to the full council today. The projected funding available already incorporates an increase in council tax next year of 3 per cent, although no increase will be confirmed until the council meets to agree its budget in February 2019. A programme of savings and service changes approved by the council last year has also been factored in. Although this is expected to deliver £2.65 million in savings in 2019/20, this still leaves an additional £5.25 million to be found next year.

Because some parts of Midlothian Council’s budget, such as teacher costs and services for children and the elderly, are either fixed or face increased demands, the impact of funding cuts on other council services is expected to be more severe. The spending shortfall for these other services amounts to 9% for next year, with the potential to rise to 45% by 2022/23.

“Once again, Midlothian faces major financial challenges as a result of the continuing, severe cuts in funding at a time of growing demand for vital public services,” said council leader, Councillor Derek Milligan.

“75% of our funding comes from the Scottish Government, with the amount we receive being drastically reduced year after year. This is despite the increased pressures we face as the fastest growing council area in Scotland, with a greater demand than ever for key services such as education, health, social care and child protection.

“The council will need to take some tough decisions as it prioritises use of its limited resources and this will inevitably have a severe impact on our ability to deliver services at current levels. However our key aim is to continue focusing our priorities on protecting the most vulnerable in our communities.”

The council has agreed that there should now be a period of public engagement on the financial challenges facing the council before the budget is finalised early in 2019. This will look at how best to meet the demand for key services and give residents and community organisations the opportunity to give their views on spending priorities.

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