Boost your childcare budget this half term


Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

As the February half term draws closer, families are being reminded that they can save up to £2,000 a year on childcare costs with Tax-Free Childcare.

More than 24,900 families in Scotland used the scheme in September 2022 and benefitted from the government paying towards childcare costs.

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is encouraging families to find out more about Tax-Free Childcare and check their eligibility via Childcare Choices.

Tax-Free Childcare can help working families pay for any approved childcare for children aged 11 or under, or, 16 if the child has a disability – whether the child goes to nursery, a childminder, attends breakfast or after school club, has holiday care or goes to an out of school activity.

For every £8 paid into an online account, families will automatically receive an additional £2 from the government. Parents can receive up to £500 every 3 months (£2,000 a year), or £1,000 (£4,000 a year) if their child is disabled.

Opening a Tax-Free Childcare account is simple and takes around 20 minutes. Money can be deposited at any time and can be used straight away, or whenever it is needed. Unused money in the account can be withdrawn at any time. Go to GOV.UK to register and get started.

Victoria Atkins, Financial Secretary to the Treasury said:

“Tax-Free Childcare can make a big difference to household budgets and I urge families to make sure they are getting the help they are entitled to.

“It is a simple process – go online today, set up an account and start making real savings on your childcare costs.”

Myrtle Lloyd, HMRC’s Director General for Customer Services, said:

“We want to help working families and by using Tax-Free Childcare, they can use the government top-up to make their money go further. Search ‘Tax-Free Childcare’ on GOV.UK to find out how it could help you.”

Families could be eligible for Tax-Free Childcare if they:

  • have a child or children aged 11 or under. They stop being eligible on 1 September after their 11th birthday. If their child has a disability, they may get up to £4,000 a year until 1 September after their 16th birthday
  • earn, or expect to earn, at least the National Minimum Wage or Living Wage for 16 hours a week, on average
  • each earn no more than £100,000 per annum
  • do not receive tax credits, Universal Credit or childcare vouchers

A full list of the eligibility criteria is available on GOV.UK.

Families can learn more about the childcare offers available to them and what support they’re entitled to by visiting Childcare Choices.

The government is offering help for households. Check GOV.UK to find out what cost of living support, including help with childcare costs, families could be eligible for.

Midlothian council confirms Hillend costs have trebled


Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Cash-strapped Midlothian Council, which has proposed cutting teacher numbers to balance the books, backed a £31 million ski centre upgrade behind closed doors, it has emerged.

Midlothian councillors need to find £14 million in savings in the next year in order to balance the books.

Despite this, elected members agreed to increase approved funding for the Destination Hillend project from the original £13.8m to £31.1million at a private meeting which the public were not allowed to attend. It is not known how many of Midlothian’s 18 councillors voted against the proposal.

The local authority insist that once the new upgraded resort opens it will generate additional income of £1million a year for council services.

However a meeting of the council this week heard it needs to find more than £14 million to plug a gap in next year’s budget with cuts to teaching jobs, library staff, community funding, crossing patrols and policing proposed to try and save money.

At that meeting Conservative Peter Smaill said it was “the wrong time to be pursuing the £33m investment into Hillend” – the first time the public were made aware of the new running costs.

Initially in 2019 the council agreed a £13.8m capitals funding for the ambitious upgrade which would see the redevelopment of the ski centre, which has the longest dry ski slope in the UK, and included a promise to create the highest zip wire in the UK and create an activity dome, hotel accommodation, a glamping site for wigwams, and shopping and food retail areas.

In 2021 the amount set aside in the capital budget was £24.68m and the hotel plans were scrapped.

In December councillors received updates on the project and costs in a private meeting, with the public excluded on the grounds that they would be discussing “information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (other than the authority) and the “amount of any expenditure proposed to be incurred by the authority under any particular contract for the acquisition of property or the supply of goods or services”.

Within a week of the meeting the council issued a release confirming work would start on a new junction, access road and car park, which would be key to the new centre, but did not mention the increased project costs, Midlothian View article published 21/12/2022.

It said it is estimated 150 jobs will be created during construction and up to 157 jobs from when the facility is finished adding the project is forecast to bring in just over £1 million a year to the council, helping support other council services and benefitting the wider local economy by up to £3.8million.

At the time Midlothian Council’s cabinet member for economic development, Councillor Douglas Bowen said:

“We’re hugely excited to reach another key stage in this project to turn the snowsports centre into a national, if not international, tourist attraction and to safeguard the future of a facility already well-loved by everyone from Olympians to novice snowboarders.

“We make no apology for the scale of our ambitions – we’re confident the project’s unique location in the Pentlands and the quality and breadth of what will be on offer will push visitor figures up from around 139,000 a year to an estimated 485,000.”

A council spokesperson confirmed councillors had given the go ahead to increase the funds set aside for the upgrade to the resort at the private meeting.

They said: “The capital costs for Destination Hillend are £31.103m and all costs unchanged since the project was approved at council in December 2022.

“Increased capital costs since June 2021 are largely due to design development, with the engineering requirements of the main building’s substructure in particular better understood, and rising inflation affecting all capital projects at the moment.

“Destination Hillend is forecast to generate a net income to the council of in excess of £1 million when fully operational from 2025/26.”

Edinburgh College open days


Edinburgh College's Midlothian Campus at Hardengreen, next to Eskbank Station.

Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

Edinburgh College is set to open its doors for four open days this February to showcase its facilities to those considering applying for a full-time course in August 2023.

The College, which has campuses across the capital region, is hosting open days across all four of its campuses to allow prospective students to find out about the courses they can apply for, and to also see first-hand what it’s like to study at Edinburgh College.

Sighthill Campus will be open from 4pm-7pm on Tuesday 7 February, Milton Road Campus will be open from 4pm-7pm on Thursday 9 February, Midlothian Campus will be open from 4pm-7pm on Tuesday 21 February and Granton Campus will be open from 10am-1pm on Saturday 25 February.

Prospective students, parents, guardians, business owners and those in employment are invited to head to College campuses to find out more about course options, funding options and accommodation, and to also meet representatives from Edinburgh College Students’ Association (ECSA).

The College offers courses and professional training across a wide range of subjects within the Creative Industries, Construction and Engineering, Health, Wellbeing and Social Science, and Tourism, Hospitality and Business.

Learners at any stage of their career or education journey will be able to find out more about the College’s beginner-level courses, pathways to university, short courses, and continuous professional development courses.

Guided tours of campus facilities will also take place during the events, with staff on hand to answer any questions and to provide demonstrations along the way.

Edinburgh College Principal, Audrey Cumberford, said:

“We’re looking forward to welcoming prospective students onto our campuses and giving them the chance to find out what it’s like studying at the College. Whether you’re a school leaver, looking to boost your current qualifications, or wanting to learn a new skill, the open days are a fantastic opportunity to find out more about the courses we have on offer. I encourage anyone who’s thinking about studying with us to come along.”

For more information and to book a place at the February Open Days, visit HERE.