“All the talk now is of the savings which Midlothian Council will have to make to balance its budget”

Wednesday February 1st 2023

Christine Grahame MSP in Parliament Main

Christine Grahame MSP writes her monthly column for Midlothian View

All the talk now is of the savings which Midlothian Council will have to make to balance its budget. To that end it has issued a list of proposals with the savings attached to consult with you. Consult, these are not decisions. No-one wants to be in this position but why is this happening?

Well you and I know that inflation has hit the roof, running somewhere in the region of 10% affecting everything we need, added to that the cost of fuel.

But why is it so bad in the UK? Yes, in Europe and the USA they have fuel increases, yes the cost of covid plays its part but they are nowhere in the state the UK economy is in. Context is everything in life. Here is the context.

For the past 12 years of Tory government the UK economy stagnated and was weak. Brexit is imposed on Scotland and is pursued even in the middle of a pandemic which has its own economic consequences. Practically every economic commentator, even Mark Cairney former governor of the Bank of England is telling us that Brexit is bad for the UK economy. To add insult to injury after the buffoonery of Boris we have Liz Truss imposed on us by a few hundred thousand Tory loyalists. Her intervention into the economy, was short but deadly and within hours of her chancellor’s announcement inflation shot sky high. Google in UK and economy and it’s not cheery news.

Back to Midlothian Council which like many councils, indeed the Scottish Government, is fighting the UK economic failures with its back to the wall. The Scottish Government budget, just like Midlothian Council is fixed. It must balance its books too. With all these pressures it is facing pay demands across the public sector: currently teachers and possibly firefighters. Every percentage increase comes out of that fixed budget paying for our health and care services, education and so on.

Money is also paid out to COSLA (Convention of Local Authorities all 32 of them) to be distributed to each local authority under a formula agreed by COSLA so no local authority negotiates directly with the Scottish Government. You can imagine how fraught and unsatisfactory that would be with 32 separate negotiations going on at any time.

The Scottish Government’s own budget was set when inflation was 3% so 10% inflation chopped £1.4 billion off its value so even though it increased by 7% the budget to Midlothian Council that cannot match the 10% inflation it too is having to cope with. It therefore cannot do all it used to. Neither can the Scottish Government magic up more money. That is where we are and I take no pleasure in saying this.

This probably has taken Scotland to the crossroads. Do we keep paying the penalty of UK mismanagement? Do we keep paying the penalty of Brexit? It will be more of the same for decades unless and until we have control of our own economy. You might say now is not the time to talk of independence but I would say this is the very time, when as a result of UK mismanagement the very necessities of life: food , fuel, local services are under attack.

Tweet Share on Facebook  

Subscribe to the Midlothian View newsletter

Support Midlothian View from as little as £1. It only takes a minute. Thank you.

Comments are closed.