Midlothian’s 24% ELC funding gap highlighted

Saturday September 12th 2020

scottish Parliament

Written by Midlothian View Reporter, Luke Jackson

The public spending watchdog for local government, the Accounts Commission,has highlighted that the funding received by Midlothian Council is 24% less than we require to implement the expansion to 1,140 hours of Early Learning and Childcare (ELC).

The acknowledgement of Midlothian’s funding challenges has been welcomed by Midlothian Council Leader, Councillor Derek Milligan.

The 24% funding gap was highlighted at a Scottish Parliament Committee.

At the cross party Public Audit and Post Legislative Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, Scottish Government civil servants and COSLA officers updated MSPs on progress made in delivering the funded hours for early learning and childcare for all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds.

Discussion on the model used to determine how much money each local authority would get from Scottish Government centred on the findings of an Audit Scotland report of March 2020. The report, on behalf of the Accounts Commission, outlined how the government adjusted costings submitted by each local authority for inflation but also on 2014 National Records of Scotland population figures rather than Councils own expected population figures.

Referring to the amount the council requested compared to what it received, the Audit Scotland report stated:

“Midlothian Council has the largest proportionate gap. It is receiving about 24 per cent less revenue funding than it estimated was necessary in its financial template, by 2021/22, after including inflation and adjusting for population.”

Acknowledging the report’s findings, senior civil servant Paul Johnston, the Director General Education, Communities and Justice, told the committee:

“I think we would all accept that this does mean in areas with particularly rapid growth, they have experienced greater challenges in terms of funding.”

Mr Johnston went on to say he recognised the figures in relation to Midlothian, which is the fastest growing local authority area in Scotland “by quite a long way”.

Council Leader Councillor Derek Milligan welcomed the committee’s acknowledgement of Midlothian’s funding challenges which he said reinforces the need for Government to act swiftly to support our growing population. He said:

“In March 2018 and taking into account our own local and more recent population projections, we estimated we would need £17.7 million to implement the expanded hours in the 2021/22 financial year. The Scottish Government adjusted this for inflation to £18.9 million. However, the government decision to revise figures based on the 2014 National Records of Scotland population figures, rather than our own projections, then reduced this amount to £13.5 million, 24% or £5.4 million less than we needed.”

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