Political parties at loggerheads over budget savings

Tuesday July 19th 2016

SNP and Green Councillors have slammed Midlothian’s Labour group for failing to attend a Midlothian Council Committee set up to oversee ‘transformational changes’ to help balance future budgets.

The Business Transformation Steering Group is made up of councillors and senior officials and aims to bring a cross party approach to balance Midlothian’s books.

Early estimations suggest the council needs to find savings of between £10m and £15m.

Cllr Kelly Parry (SNP), Chair of the Business Transformation Steering Group said:

“Labour need to get round the table and start working for their constituents who are hurting from Westminster policies.”

“In Westminster they voted to waste billions on renewing Trident and abstain from protecting the most vulnerable from punishing welfare cuts. It’s simply not good enough to walk away from the local consequences of those actions.”

Cllr Ian Baxter (Green) said:

“Midlothian faces the biggest financial challenges in its history and it’s vitally important that councillors from all parties work together to protect the most vulnerable. It is deeply frustrating that the Labour Group continues to boycott this cross party group and the only people to suffer from their inaction will be the people of Midlothian”.

Midlothian View contacted Derek Milligan, the leader of the Midlothian Labour Group for comment. Mr Milligan said:

“Once again the SNP administration is attempting to deflect attention away from their appalling performance over the 4 years they have run Midlothian Council.

“They are critical of Labour’s position of not taking part in the Business Transformation Committee. This is a committee with no power, other than to recommend actions to council (usually cuts to services), which are decided by a few councillors and officers, behind closed doors.

“They say that they are looking for cross party effort to focus on the significant issues that the council continues to face, yet each time Labour have put forward any of its members for positions on the Council’s Cabinet, this has been blocked by the SNP, supported by Ian Baxter, the Green Councillor and the ‘Independent’ Tory, Peter De Vink, who keeps them in power.

“Remember Labour have exactly the same number of Councillors as the SNP, so perhaps if they were genuine in their call for cross party co-operation they would offer half of the cabinet positions to Labour Councillors.

“Instead, the SNP focus on in-fighting and game playing. They are now on their 5th leader in 4 years. They have cut the cabinet from 7 to 5 and gave each cabinet member an extra £2000 in wages.

“Maybe they feel that having Labour Councillors on the Cabinet would have different priorities that were incompatible with their own. I would certainly hope so.”

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