Midlothian Labour Party Statement on council budget

Friday February 1st 2019

Midlothian Council

Midlothian Labour Councillors are warning that proposals to bridge an £9.7 million budget gap will decimate local services.

Council Leader, Derek Milligan said, “Derek Mackay, the SNP Government’s Finance Minister declined our request to meet to discuss improving the Scottish Government’s totally inadequate funding offer, which leaves councillors facing devastating decisions on services.”

“Council officers have worked on a set of measures to bridge the gap between our income and what we need to spend and what has come forward is, quite frankly, catastrophic. In past budgets we have had a number of choices we could make, but the less drastic cuts have all been taken and we are now being presented with cuts that would have a huge impact on our front line services.

“With this year’s Scottish Government funding offer we’ve no choice but to consider these at the next full Council meeting on Tuesday 12 February .”

The officer proposals if approved, would include:

– A large number of redundancies (subject to consultation)
– Stopping Music tuition as well as other creative arts provision
– Closing Dalkeith, Newtongrange and Gorebridge libraries
– Closing Danderhall, Gorebridge and Newtongrange leisure centres
– Dissolving the Community Safety Team
– Dissolving Midlothian Community Policing teams (POLICE CAT Teams)
– Cutting or ending the school crossing guide service
– Closing all five public toilets
– Closing Penicuik Recycling Centre
– Stopping the Active Schools service
– Stopping funding for gala days
– Closing Vogrie golf course
– Consulting on the future of Glencorse Primary School

Councillor Milligan added, “I recognise the concerns of residents who are expressing dismay at the devastating impact further Scottish Government funding cuts will have on local services and Midlothian communities.

“How our local MSP’s Colin Beattie and Christine Grahame can call this a good settlement beggars belief. Indeed the very opposite is the case. Midlothian Council is facing a budget gap in 2019/20 of £9.7 million. This is the difference between what we expect to get in funding (from Scottish Government Grant and Council Tax), and what we need to keep providing services at current levels.

“Midlothian has the fastest growing population of any local authority area in Scotland, but government grant funding (which makes up around 72% of the council’s income) continues to be cut. As a result, our funding is not keeping up with the fast-growing demand for vital local services, leaving us having to find savings of over £9.7 million in 2019/20, rising to around £41.7 million by 2022/23 in order to balance our budget. I am shocked that some of our MSPs are claiming yesterday’s announcement is an increase to councils funding when it’s simply a small reduction to the cut they have imposed on our council.

“The way Local Government Finance is distributed also penalises councils with increasing populations. For example West Dunbartonshire has more than a thousand less people, yet it gets £8.5 million more in Scottish government funding. If we had that £8.5 million we would not have a budget gap.

“Cuts such as those we are having to contemplate are quite simply an assault on our communities and will leave councils across the Lothian’s unable to deliver core community demands. The savings we will have to consider, of taken would lead to the loss of around 180 jobs.

“Myself and colleagues in Midlothian and other councils are continuing to press Scottish Government ministers for an urgent review of local government distribution funding and for a fairer financial settlement which recognises the Lothian’s and in particular Midlothian’s unique position as the fastest growing area in the country. I know that concerned residents and community groups are also pressing our local MSPs to do the same, and I hope local residents will also consider writing to them to press for additional, urgent funding for these services.”

Midlothian View has asked the Midlothian SNP party and MSPs Christine Grahame and Colin Beattie for their response which will be published in due course.

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