Many cuts rejected and Midlothian Council tax up by 5%

Tuesday February 21st 2023


Council leader Kelly Parry speaking at the council meeting with Deputy Council Leader Colin Cassidy.

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Council tax will rise by five per cent in Midlothian in the year ahead as a last minute agreement among councillors saw plans to cut council jobs put on hold.

Stand alone toilets are to close and there will be a one per cent budget cut across schools as part of measures to plug a £14 million hole in the council budget.

A meeting of the council this morning saw elected members agree not to push ahead with savings proposals which would have seen school crossing patrols axed, librarians and countryside rangers jobs cut and the removal of community police officers as well as a reduction in free music tuition in schools.

However they did agree to increase council tax by five per cent in the coming year, push ahead with a 1 per cent budget cut across schools and raise the cost for brown bin services to £40 a year from £35 from next year.

And they decided to use new Scottish Government rules to extend loans on privately financed public buildings reducing payments and claiming back past overpayments to find an additional £4 million in savings as part of approved service concession changes.

Protesters gathered outside the council headquarters representing community transport, voluntary groups and students.

Council leader Kelly Parry said the views of the public had been heard by councillors in the run up to the budget decisions being made.

And she said the council’s cross party business transformation steering group had created an amendment to the officers’ recommendations which would see many of the proposed cuts sent back for review.

Initial proposals had also included reducing the number of teachers in Midlothian by 174 but that was shelved after the Scottish Government made it clear a reduction in teachers would see additional funding withheld.

Councillor Parry told the meeting: “All Midlothian councillors have worked hard to do their best for the people of Midlothian. We do all care deeply and we care about council services.

“We have all listened carefully and engaged with our residents, employees and trade unions and community partners and worked tirelessly through cross party working to find a consensus.

“While we all want to move towards transformation some budget savings put forward by council officers need further work, that does not mean they are completely off the table but we recognise that we either need to find a different way to deliver services, work with our communities or, in some cases, make difficult decisions.”

Cuts which will go ahead include the loss of five cleaning jobs, which will see current vacancies deleted, closure of stand alone public toilets, and the closure of PPP schools during holidays.

Councillor Derek Milligan, leader of the Labour group told the meeting: “This is the most challenging budget time I have ever come across, it is exceptionally difficult to find a way to balance this book.

“We have not solved a problem today we have simply rearranged our borrowing and it will not go away. This is a stay of execution.”

Mr Milligan said there needed to be more funding from Government to councils with 77 per cent of funding coming to local authorities through national grants.

He urged all parties to work together to persuade the Scottish Government Midlothian needs fair funding.

The amended budget was approved with a decision to bring back savings proposals which had been shelved to council in June for a further review.

You can watch councillors discuss the budget in the video below.


Councillors agreed some savings proposals will be reviewed. These will be brought back to the full Council no later than June 2023 as part of the updated Medium Term Financial Strategy.

The savings proposals to be reconsidered by June 2023 are:

– Ending funding for Third Sector organisations, from 2025. The current three year grants, already awarded, will continue. However, third sector funding from 2025 will be reviewed
– Removing staff from libraries including school libraries. Alternative ways to generate savings including maximising services on offer in libraries will be looked at across the community and school libraries
– Rationalising Home to School and ASN Transport by increasing the eligibility for free transport for all secondary age pupils from two to three miles. Home to school transport for children with Additional Support Needs would also be cut.
– Cuts to the school crossing patrol service
– Stopping out of hours footpath gritting
– Stopping support for commercial bus services
– Ending community transport funding such as Dial A Ride services
– Closing Penicuik Recycling Centre
– Cutting the budget for maintaining council buildings (not housing)
– Reducing non-statutory early years’ provision
– Rationalising the school estate by consulting on the potential closure of St Matthews Primary School
– Increasing shared headships
– Stopping overtime for sport and leisure staff
– Closing either Newtongrange or Gorebridge Leisure Centre or transferring the asset to the community
– Transforming the school week
– Reducing the Welfare Rights Service

Councillors agreed a range of other savings proposals including discussion with the Midlothian Integrated Joint Board on how the funding for health and social care is to be reviewed to achieve a possible reduction of £1,333,000 to £56,593,028. Savings proposals around teacher numbers have been removed.

Savings that were approved are:

– Reducing the net cost of benefits by 6%
– Reducing shrub bed maintenance
– Reviewing Trading Standards Service. To reduce costs, the council will explore possibilities including working with other councils on a shared service basis, and will look at other ways of bringing in income to maintain the service.
– Closing seven PPP primary schools during the holidays
– Closing five stand-alone public toilets
– Stopping the night security service at Stobhill Depot
– Removing 5 full-time equivalent vacant facilities management posts
– A review of land services (the rangers are part of land services. Instead of cutting the rangers posts from three to one, land services would be subject to a wider review)
– Reviewing third party contracts in Education
– An administration review in Education
– A 1% cut in the Devolved School Management Budgets covering services such as early learning, staffing and supplies
– Removing a vacant post in the Continuous Improvement team
– Cutting one full time equivalent post in the Internal Audit team

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