WFI Midlothian respond to Midlothian Council Budget cut proposals

Thursday December 14th 2017

Women For Independence Midlothian

Women for Independence Midlothian (WFI Midlothian) have written an open letter outlining their response to Midlothian Council’s proposed spending proposals:-

WFI Midlothian

WFI Midlothian are extremely concerned to see the extent of cuts proposed to front line Council services in Midlothian. While we recognise the difficulties of the austerity measures being imposed by the UK Government, via the Scottish Government, it must be recognised that the brunt of austerity has been absorbed by women and disabled people. Amid the backdrop of Universal Credit, these plans will also have an unequal and disproportionate impact on women, children, and other vulnerable people in Midlothian. Further, the proposed redundancy of 242 staff will also heavily impact on women given they make up roughly 69% of council staff.

The proposed cuts will increase poverty, isolation and impact on mental and physical health. They will reduce inclusion and diminish widely used services, facilities and resources. This will in turn put more pressure on existing Council services, costing more in the long run.

The council document itself appears inconsistent, reflecting primarily the short term concerns and objectives of individual departments. It lacks strategic vision, cohesion and the aspiration to improve the lives of Midlothian citizens. It is our assertion that the cuts will destroy the heart of the majority of the Midlothian communities. While acknowledging the doubling of the number of older people over the next 20 years and the need for Social Housing, the selling of “common good” and publicly owned land and other assets would result in a short term injection of funds but a decrease in future opportunities to tackle the changes in demographics. In our view the plans are an attempt to privatise public property and common land, a loss for the many, for the benefit of a few.

The removal of Welfare Rights services will impact on people most needing advice about benefits and other services and put more pressure on the already overstretched Voluntary sector such as CAB.

Closure of 90% of Libraries will reduce access to computers, and therefore to many services that are delivered and applied for digitally. Libraries provide meeting places and a life line for many people by providing social contact, access to literature, community information and education. The diminishing of this service will be felt most by those in most need and will no longer be within local communities.

WFI Midlothian is intending the launch of a “Free Period” service using the Libraries as a means of distributing products to women and girls hit by period poverty. This too will be endangered by the Council’s proposals.

If Community Safety services are to be removed, street lighting, paths and road maintenance services reduced, school crossing services abandoned, the impact will be most felt by women, children, elderly and disabled people. Meanwhile the Community Action Team, costing over £500,000 pa, when Police Scotland are already paid for, could be viewed as a vanity project of the Midlothian Labour Group. It is our assertion that dropping the CAT team would free up budget to avoid many of these unnecessary cuts.

With imagination the council could offer and do far more. By investing in and strengthening communities for the future, by thinking creatively, innovatively and holistically, making full use of existing and new funding resources coming via, for example, the City Deal and Borders Blueprint funding. These could be used to improve people’s lives and aspirations within their communities, which is after all the intention of these funds. We encourage the council to focus on improving skills and opportunities to young people through supporting entrepreneurial business and tech start ups such as Skyscanner to open offices in Midlothian. The council need to encourage high value community focussed local businesses that support tourism and provide employment rather than give permission for yet another drive through McDonalds or building houses and selling them off. It needs to focus on preserving and improving sustainable community resources and facilities, not reducing them.

We challenge the council members to think more creatively for the benefit of ALL Midlothian citizens and their communities.

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