Politicians comment on council budget issues

Tuesday February 5th 2019

Christine Grahame and Colin Beattie and Danielle Rowley

From left to right, Christine Grahame MSP, Colin Beattie MSP and Danielle Rowley MP

Two of the MSPs representing Midlothian, Christine Grahame and Colin Beattie, as well as Midlothian MP Danielle Rowley have commented on the council budget issues.

Christine Grahame, SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, has written to the leader of Midlothian Council Councillor Derek Milligan, Labour, to ask what representations he made to COSLA for more funding for Midlothian, given the Labour led council is now imposing swinging cuts including library and leisure centre closures and cuts to musical instrument tuition in schools.

The MSP says that the money given to local councils is agreed as a lump sum from the Scottish Government as negotiated by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA). COSLA then distribute it amongst their member local authorities as per their agreed funding formula, with it then up to each local council to decide how to spend it. There are 8 leader of councils’ COSLA meetings each year where each council leader can any concerns or issues in their area. Ms Grahame has asked Councillor Milligan how many of these he attended and what representations he made for Midlothian to have increased funding.

COSLA has welcomed the Scottish Government’s settlement, Ms Grahame says, in particular as a result of the opportunity for councils to raise more of their own funds which they had been calling for.

Commenting Ms Grahame said:

“I am really dismayed by the cuts being announced by Midlothian Council and understandably a number of my constituents are deeply unhappy about this. The Scottish Government does not negotiate with any individual council – it negotiates with COSLA, which has welcomed the budget. It is up to each council leader to put forward its case at COSLA, particularly where there are exceptional circumstances such as the expanding population in Midlothian.”

Midlothian MSP Colin Beattie (SNP) said:

“It’s clear to me from Councillor Cassidy’s proposals [Councillor with a plan to fix the budget] that the SNP are the only party in Midlothian attempting to provide innovative solutions to the budget dilemma.

“The Council will be provided with an increase of £10.4m – almost six per cent – in the 2019-20 budget over last year, and yet the Council are proposing all manner of cuts that will decimate our communities. We hear much about projected population figures and, while it’s clear this will need to be factored in at some point, at present this is having a minimal impact on our costs.

“I can only assume that the current Council administration is simply incapable of managing its finances. I call on Midlothian Council to stop creating alarm and despondency, and instead get on with doing the job of balancing the budget and providing vital services the people of Midlothian need.”

Danielle Rowley MP (Labour) said:

“I am extremely concerned about the human impact these cuts will have on our communities.

“I have written to Derek Mackay asking him to give Midlothian, the fastest growing local authority in Scotland, fairer funding and reconsider the settlement he has given Midlothian Council.

“I have also written to Midlothian MSPs Christine Grahame and Colin Beattie asking that they stand up for Midlothian by asking the Finance Minister to reconsider the settlement. I am yet to receive a response.”

“The SNP government must stop cash starving Midlothian and give our council a fairer deal.”

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