Thursday March 10th 2016
Kelly Parry, SNP Councillor for the Midlothian West ward gives her response to the council budget discussions.
“Is Midlothian Labour really proposing to just let crime happen and push people into the criminal justice system at a massive cost to taxpayers?’ The facts on the budget.
I’ve watched with interest how Midlothian Labour have spun the recent budget passed at this week’s council meeting, and whilst I fully expected spin and some bending of the truth I did not expect a community to be misled and be innocent pawns in a game which has seen fear mongering and division used as a tactic to score political points.
The budget passed this week brings forward savings that are essential to ensure that the Council can carry out its statutory obligations as well as balancing that aim with a sensible, sustainable financial position going forward.
Since this administration took over the shambolic budget sheet left behind by Midlothian Labour in 2012 the SNP group have been prudent where we need to be, reactive where we needed to be and took the right decisions to ensure that we have not only successfully improved our budget sheet but did so whilst funding programmes that have raised positive outcomes for Midlothian residents.
We are not bursting at the seams like other councils in terms of our reserves, however, with the financial landscape looking bleaker than ever for families due to the Tory government reforms, backed by Labour let’s not forget, the right thing to do was for us to dig into the piggy bank and use some of that – but we must do so cautiously, with at least another four years of a Tory government and potentially longer if we continue to rely on a defunct Labour Party or fail to gain independence in this time.
Saving money for a rainy day is one thing but right now it’s pouring, and taking money out of hard working families pockets is a step too far. Scottish Labour voted against free school meals for primary one to three in the Scottish Parliament, however the SNP group proposal not to increase school meals charges in Midlothian will protect even more families.
I was surprised at Councillors from the Labour side and their budget proposals – which I described in the chamber as a glorified fag packet approach – and their faux outrage at the change in policing policies that were approved. It’s certainly not the first time Councillor Muirhead has heard about theses changes – at the recent Police, Fire and Rescue board he and I were both privy to a detailed explanation about how these changes fit into a wider context of using preventative methods of reducing crime in Midlothian, in fact crime in Midlothian has fallen and we have the highest amount of police officers on Scotland’s streets since the SNP took over the reigns in the Scottish Parliament in 2007.
The change in strategy announced this week won’t change the service Midlothian receives now, in fact with local police re-structuring we are seeing a return to community policing with named officers to help with providing a solid local connection. Response time targets remain, as does strategies to deal with anti social behaviour, for a Councillor to imply otherwise is irresponsible or ignorant, perhaps both.
To suggest that to make Midlothian safer the only way to deal with social and criminal issues is for a police officer to tell someone ‘they are bad’ is an outdated approach at best and a backwards step for Midlothian at worst. Analysis of anti social crime and behaviour and minor incidents show that inequality is a huge factor.
Working to make Midlothian a region of reduced inequality where kids can leave school with a positive destination into work, college or university will have a much more positive effect. Investing in community facilities, new schools and affordable homes will drive down poverty and help to build towards a Midlothian that has more to offer our kids, and theirs. Is the Midlothian Labour Group really proposing to just let crime happen and push people into the criminal justice system at a massive cost to taxpayers?
Midlothian Labour would do well to recall that Midlothian is still recovering from the Thatcher era decimation of a mining community, and the damage to our communities is still around us. Labour are an outdated party, putting forward out of touch and reckless ideas ideas in order to politically point score.
Perhaps their time would be better spent attending the committees that they refuse to take part in rather than spending it spreading fear, alarm and vilifying those who need our help – Midlothian residents deserve more from their Councillors.”
Councillor for the Midlothian West ward of Midlothian Council