“It has taken Colin over five years to finally stand up for the County”

Saturday June 27th 2020

Colin-Beattie-Derek-Milligan

Colin Beattie SNP (left), MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, and Derek Milligan, Midlothian Council Leader, Labour

Derek Milligan, Midlothian Council Leader, has written this response to the article MSP challenges COSLA funding to Midlothian which was published on Wednesday.

 

While I welcome the fact that Colin Beattie MSP has finally recognised that Midlothian received inadequate levels of funding from the Scottish Government it’s unfortunate that it has taken Colin over five years to finally stand up for the County he represents in our parliament. I hope it won’t take another five years for him to press Scottish Government directly to provide fair funding for Local Government and to make a commitment to support and argue for a fundamental independent review of how local government is funded.

Last week Audit Scotland confirmed to the Scottish Parliament what we already know. Midlothian is the fastest growing Council area in the Scotland, growth which is critical to the Scottish economy. Yet the resource demand that this places on Midlothian Council is grossly underfunded by the Scottish Government.

Colin unfortunately seeks to place the blame at the door of the other thirty one Councils and the Council umbrella body COSLA [The Convention of Scottish Local Authorities is the national association of Scottish councils]. Let’s be clear, COSLA does not fund this Council. It is the SNP government, propped up by the Scottish Greens, who continually fail to provide Midlothian with the crucial resources we need to support our growing population.

It’s not just an issue for Councils alone. We see similar challenges in Health with NHS Lothian being underfunded in comparison with other Health Boards. Our neighbouring Council areas also face similar challenges, though nowhere near the same extent as Midlothian.

It is time both Colin and the SNP Government recognised, not only the need for a fair funding settlement for all of Local Government, but also the particular pressures that Midlothian and other rapidly growing Councils face. These Councils need to be given the resources they require to provide critical services for their communities.

In respect of the expansion of early years, Councils collectively prepared estimates of the levels of funding needed to deliver that expansion. However, Scottish Government then chose to apportion those costs based on the population figures from 2014, rather than use our own or indeed the National Registrars of Scotland’s population projections. This results in underfunding for Midlothian, but gives those Councils with a shrinking population more resources that even they indicated they need. This alone equates to a £5.4 million shortfall for Midlothian.

Each year, when deciding how much funding each council gets Scottish Ministers include what is referred to as a floor adjustment. This is meant to protect Councils with a shrinking population from rapid falls in funding levels. However this is not additional money, this is taken from Councils who have a growing population. For the current year this resulted in Midlothian losing a further £1.8 million funding, equivalent to the salaries of about 36 teachers.

And that’s not all. The Scottish Government recently announced a further £50m in Attainment Challenge funding for schools. Not one penny of this comes to Midlothian. I ask Colin Beattie, where is the equity in that for our children?

I have explained to Colin on numerous occasions the challenges we face and the impact underfunding has on our communities. Having at last acknowledged the challenge, I ask Colin to now work with us for the benefit of Midlothian to secure genuinely fair funding and to secure a truly independent review of Local Government funding.

Without a change in direction from Scottish Government it is our communities who will suffer the hugely damaging effects of the underfunding of our services.

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