Monday August 29th 2022
Many local authorities are now finding themselves in similar situations to Midlothian, with significant budget gaps due to increasing costs and decreases in funding.
The Full Council meeting on Tuesday was notable for the unity of understanding and concern from all Councillors and a shared desire to see the budget gap addressed. Logically, this can only be done by getting more money from the Scottish Government, increasing income through Council Tax, and cutting services to save money.
A 1% increase in council tax only yields just over half-a-million pounds which equates to approximately 4% of the budget gap, so it doesn’t provide a great deal of help.
Similarly, the proposals currently being worked on in terms of service delivery savings only represent about a quarter of the gap, but in practical terms remove vital services for some of our most vulnerable people.
As Cllr Parry says, we have a significant challenge on our hands, at a time of difficulty with costs of living, eating, heating, and travelling only seeming to go up as does the prospect of local services being withdrawn.
I am glad the Council Leader is appealing to both governments for assistance.
It was a point of frustration in Full Council that certain colleagues seemed determined to blame the current crisis solely on the UK Government. When challenged about the UK Government’s influence on pandemic outbreaks and Russian attacks on freedom, the finger of blame was revised to point squarely at Brexit. A slightly tired and desperate argument now.
Councillors agreed unanimously to writing to the Scottish Government regarding public finances. The council will set out very clearly that the Scottish Government will see 4.7% real terms increase in funding from the UK Government. However, current proposals indicate that Scottish Local Authorities will receive 7% less funding over the next few years.
Nevertheless, it is right that both the UK and Scottish Governments should be challenged to understand the practical crises that are emerging in all local authorities and work with us to help us tackle the problems we are facing, particularly given the increase the Scottish Government has seen in its budget. Local Government should be given the same increase.Tweet Share on Facebook