Thursday April 15th 2021
One of the great unsung scandals of devolution is the way our councils are funded. Year after year, Scottish councils, including Midlothian, have seen huge cuts that now threaten even the most basic of public services.
In my years as both a councillor and as leader of my local authority I have seen first hand the impacts these cuts are having on our communities. In Midlothian, it’s clear these issues have reached a head with the council now teetering on the point of bankruptcy. I’ll admit, council finances are not the most exciting of subjects but when they affect our children’s nursery care, our public safety, addressing fly tipping, or even the simple ability to clean up dog mess in our parks then it becomes an issue that affects every last resident in Midlothian, from the oldest to the very youngest. Cuts to council funding equals cuts to our vital services, and it is our vulnerable communities that are hit hardest.
The recent injection of cash from the Scottish Government is nothing more than a sticking plaster that fails to make up for 14 years of cuts and it falls far short of what is required. The Convention of Local Authorities in Scotland estimate that there is currently a £1billion black hole in council finances as a direct result of Covid. The additional funding from the UK Government, through the Scottish Government, is welcome but the Scottish Government have not handed over all the money that they have received to local government. While Holyrood has hoarded cash (the Scottish Government has increased its budget by 9% since 2011/12) funding for local councils has been cut by 17% in real terms over the past decade.
Midlothian is on the frontline of this struggle for fairer funding. As I mentioned last week, its population is growing faster than any other area in Scotland. At the same time, it’s seen some of the worst cuts in the country. A prime example of this is the rollout out of 1140 hours of funded childcare. A recent report by Audit Scotland, the body responsible for monitoring Scottish Government expenditure, noted that Midlothian Council will only receive three quarters of the funding needed to deliver the policy, despite seeing rapid growth in the number of children growing up in the area.
All across Midlothian, the council is struggling to pay for libraries, roads, playparks and waste collection, let alone consider additional funding for projects such as mental health services and additional community action teams to combat antisocial behaviour.
It’s time for a fair funding deal for our councils. That’s why I’m fighting for an additional £20.9 million in funding for Midlothian to restore our public services and rebuild our communities after this pandemic. We need recovery, not a referendum.Tweet Share on Facebook