Midlothian Community Councils express grave concern about cuts

Monday January 30th 2023

Business Gateway Midlothian Fairfield House

Written by Midlothian View Editor, Phil Bowen

A letter has been sent to the elected representatives of Midlothian Council, the Scottish Government and the Government of the United Kingdom, as well as the Chief Executive of Midlothian Council. It is in response to the cuts that have been proposed by Midlothian Council which will be discussed at their Council meeting tomorrow.

Robert Hogg, Chair of Midlothian Federation of Community Councils said:

“The cuts proposed by Midlothian Council are unacceptable and will disproportionately affect the lowest paid, elderly and those without digital skills or devices. Midlothian Council key priorities for 2022-23 are to improve health and learning outcomes and prevent child and household poverty, yet these cuts will significantly increase the inequalities in these areas. The suggestion that volunteers can take over services is an unworkable fantasy. The impact of these proposals has not been fully and properly investigated with Councillors expected to make decisions without accurate information.

“We recognise the crisis in local authority funding which must now be addressed by Councillors, COSLA and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy. Our message is simple – No more cuts.”

The Letter:

On behalf of the Midlothian Federation of Community Councils, we write to express our deep disappointment and grave concern regarding the ‘Saving Proposals for 2023/24’ published by Midlothian Council on Friday 20 January 2023.

The consensus of all Midlothian Community Councils, representing our respective Communities, is that the proposed cuts are detached from any meaningful social analysis or consideration. They represent a rushed technocratic economic response; one which will disproportionately sacrifice community services and resources which are vital to the social cohesion of the county, relied upon by those most in need, and will damage the provision of education and safety within this Council area.

We note the lack of focus on inward expenditure; administration or management. Similarly, no mention of repurposing the considerable level of income received in recent years from developer contributions (Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)); works which largely proceeded against the wishes of the wider communities.

Given the timeframe for identifying, assessing, and agreeing proposed saving cuts is tight, we had hoped for much more visible challenge from our elected politicians; especially given the current political synergy between the Midlothian Council administration, our Holyrood & Westminster elected representatives, and the current Scottish Government. The proposals in their current form would devastate much of the progress which has been achieved over many years and would risk wiping out the efforts of many volunteer and community groups, merely on the grounds of economy.

The proposals place an unrealistic and wholly inappropriate dependence upon volunteers, presumably expecting volunteer groups across the county to make up for Midlothian Council withdrawing their own support, resource and expertise from numerous pieces of work and services. As a group we would gently remind the Council, both officers and the elected representatives, that volunteer groups themselves have been stretched for many years, especially during and since the COVID pandemic at a time when local authorities withdrew from providing visible, coalface services and support (many which have yet to return to pre-COVID levels). To rely upon volunteers to this degree (volunteers who themselves will be significantly disadvantaged by these cuts) speak of a mindset of panic in the Council. This at a time when we should all be focused on devising plans and priorities which serve the public and our communities as best as possible during the current challenging economic conditions.
The plans published at present fall very short of achieving this.

The feedback we have received has remarked on the notion that these proposals were formulated or inspired by the responses to public consultation (a consultation which incidentally appeared to be administered predominantly online) is not persuasive.

While we recognise the considerable financial restraints facing the public purse over the coming years, the saving proposals published at the present time are entirely inappropriate in their present form. We believe the bigger issue is the formula that is used to determine how much funding each local authority receives. Midlothian Council has been one of the fastest growing areas in Scotland for some years, yet we receive the same proportion of funding from COSLA as we always did. To build and maintain the infrastructure required to host the many, many, new developments in Midlothian, a much fairer division is required. We insist that you apply pressure on The Scottish Government to conduct an independent review of Council Funding.

In conclusion, none of the proposed cuts would be necessary if Midlothian Council was funded appropriately and fairly. We do not accept them. We do not want to pit group against group trying to fight for whose cause is more important, they are all important. We must stand together in solidarity.

Bonnyrigg and District Community Council
Dalkeith and District Community Council
Danderhall & District Community Council
Damhead and District Community Council
Eskbank & Newbattle Community Council
Gorebridge & District Community Council
Howgate Community Council
Loanhead & District Community Council
Mayfield & Easthouses Community Council
Moorfoot Community Council
Newtongrange Community Council
Penicuik & District Community Council
Rosewell & District Community Council
Roslin & Bilston Community Council
Tynewater Community Council

The letter has been sent to

Dr Grace Vickers Chief Executive, Midlothian Council

Cllr Kelly Parry Leader of the Council & SNP Group Leader Midlothian Council
Cllr Derek Milligan Labour Group Leader, Midlothian Council
Cllr David Virgo Scottish Conservatives Group Leader, Midlothian Council

Owen Thompson MP Midlothian

Colin Beattie MSP Midlothian North and Musselburgh
Christine Grahame MSP Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale

Jeremy Balfour MSP Lothian
Sarah Boyack MSP Lothian
Miles Briggs MSP Lothian
Foysol Choudhury Lothian
The Rt Hon. Alison Johnston MSP Lothian
Lorna Slater MSP Lothian
Sue Webber MSP Lothian

Sharon Dowey MSP South Scotland
Emma Harper MSP South Scotland
Craig Hoy MSP South Scotland
Carol Mochan MSP South Scotland
Colin Smyth MSP South Scotland
Martin Whitfield MSP South Scotland
Brian Whittle MSP South Scotland

Shona Robison MSP Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing & Local Government, The Scottish Government

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