Our Spending Choices

Our spending choices 2019/20 - your questions answered

Q. Where does the council get its money?

A. Most of the council’s money comes as grant funding from the Scottish Government.  This currently makes up more than three quarters (76.5%) of what the council has to spend on services.  Council Tax pays for less than a quarter (23.5%) of what the council spends on local services.

Q. Why doesn’t the council have enough money?

A. The amount of Scottish Government grant that the council gets to pay for services is being reduced and is likely to be much less in future years. This is happening at the same time as demand for local services is increasing, as the result of a fast-growing and ageing population.

Next year, the council is facing a budget shortfall of £10.576 million. This is the difference between what the council needs to spend to keep local services at current levels and the amount it expects to get to pay for them.

Q. Why is the demand for local services growing so fast?

A. Midlothian is the fastest growing council area in Scotland.  Our population in 2018 is 90,090. By 2026, it will be 100,410.  This puts extra demand on the council for services.  For example, the number of school places will go up from 12,528 this year to 22,758 by 2036.

The number of older people is also increasing, resulting in extra pressure on vital services such as health and adult social care.  The number of people in Midlothian aged 65 or over is 16,392. By 2026, this will be 20,236.  The number over 75 is also expected to rise by around 40% over the same period – from 6,804 in 2018 to 9,565 by 2026.

Q. Where does my Council Tax go?

A. Council Tax meets less than a quarter of the cost of providing council services in Midlothian (23.5% in 2018/19). The rest (76.5%) comes as grant from the Scottish Government.

More than half (54%) of what the council spends pays for education, communities and economic development (2018/19 figures).  A quarter of all council spending (25%) is on health and social care.

The remaining 21% meets the cost of all other council services including waste services, roads, libraries, parks and open spaces, sport and leisure, planning, and environmental health. This doesn’t include the costs of council housing, which is fully funded from rents. Here is a breakdown of how the council is spending its money this year (2018/19).  You can also view or download our ‘infographic’ factsheet which shows what is spent on each service area (PDF).

 How the Council spends your money




 Adult social care and the elderly


 Children’s services


 Property and facilities management


 General support services             


 Street cleaning, waste collection and disposal


 Roads maintenance and street lighting


 Revenues and benefits 


 Business support services            


 Communities and economic development


 Digital services 


 Libraries and customer services


 Sport and leisure             


 Travel and fleet services              


 Parks and open spaces  


 Loan charges to fund capital investment


 Environmental health and trading standards


 Planning and building standards


 Other central costs


 Recharges, targeted savings and other income




 Total spending                                                 


Q. If Midlothian Council’s population is growing so fast, won’t you get even more income from Council Tax and government grant to pay for services?

A. We will, and our financial projections already take account of this extra funding.  However, this still falls short of the extra money we will need to find to pay for services to meet the demands of a growing population.  Our estimated funding shortfall next year (2019/20) is £10.576 million. This could rise to £40.782 million by 2022/23.

Last year, the council approved a package of savings for 2018/19 to 2021/22. These will save £2.65 million next year (2019/20). However, even if Council Tax goes up again next year by 3%, this will still leave a gap in the council’s budget of £6.793 million. The council will need to find more savings and increase its income to bridge this funding gap.

Q. If the increase in population is causing so much pressure on services, why do we keep building more houses in Midlothian?

A. The Scottish Government requires the council to identify sites for new housing development and sets the number of houses that need to be built over a given period.  The council’s powers to reject applications for new housing are limited and refusals can be, and have been, overturned by Scottish Government ministers following appeals by the developers.

For Midlothian, the amount of new housing we are required to provide is significant, which is why we are the fastest growing area in Scotland.  From 2019 and 2024, Midlothian is expected to provide 6,306 new homes on top of the 6,691 provided between 2009 and 2019.

Inevitably, this housing and population growth leads to additional demands for local infrastructure, such as roads and transport and vital facilities such as schools and health centres.

In 2017, the council made representations to the Scottish Government seeking additional, specific funding, given that rapid growth is increasing the demand for services in Midlothian. However, this was not accepted by Scottish Ministers at that time.

Q. Why can’t house builders and developers help pay towards the cost of local services?

A. Building developers already pay to help fund the new buildings we need, such as schools, to serve a growing population. However, they don’t pay towards the cost of staffing and running schools or other council services. The council doesn’t have the power to change this.

Q. Why can’t we put up Council Tax?

A. In previous years, the Scottish Government has either put a freeze on Council Tax increases or limited the amount by how much Council Tax could go up.  In 2018/19, Council Tax in Midlothian increased by 3%, the limit advised by the Scottish Government. The council's projections show that even if Council Tax goes up again next year by 3%, Midlothian Council will still have a budget gap of more than £8 million which will need to be found from savings.

Q. What about all the savings approved by the council last year (2017/18)?

A. Last year, the council approved a package of savings for 2018/19 to 2021/22. These will save £2.65 million next year (2019/20). However, even if Council Tax goes up again next year by 3%, this will still leave a gap in the council’s budget of £6.793 million. The council will need to find more savings and increase its income to bridge this funding gap.

Q. Why can’t the council raise more money by increasing charges for some services and introducing new sources of income?

A. The council will have to look again at what it charges for some services and will also look at introducing new ways of bringing in income to help pay for the services it provides.  However, this alone will not be enough to fill the budget gap. The council will need to focus on its spending priorities. This will mean reducing some existing services and stopping providing others.

Q. How does the council set its priorities when it comes to spending on services?

A. As part of a key document known as the Midlothian Single Plan, the council and its partners have agreed three key priorities:

  • reduce the gap in economic circumstances
  • reduce the gap in learning outcomes
  • reduce the gap in health outcomes

The council’s political groups will take these priorities into account when working on their budget proposals for 2019/20 but the council’s financial challenges mean that they will have to make difficult choices.  As part of the public engagement leading up to the council’s budget meeting in 2019, residents and local organisations are also being asked for their views on what the council’s priorities should be when it comes to making spending decisions for next year and beyond. You can find out how to Have Your Say on our Spending Choices pages.

Q. What is the council doing differently to cut costs?

A. Midlothian Council agreed a 4-year plan last year to help deliver the savings needed to meet the budget shortfall. This will involve transforming services and will deliver £2.65 million in savings next year (2019/20). Council services are being reviewed to find ways of doing things differently. The aim is to protect key services, make efficiency savings and cut running costs. The council is also working with the voluntary sector and community groups and with neighbouring councils and other partners to see what savings can be made by sharing services, providing them in different ways and by generating more income.

Q. How can residents and community groups have a say on how the council spends its money?

A. Discussions with voluntary and community groups will be held as part of the budget engagement process taking place over the winter of 2018/19.  Community engagement meetings will also be held to give local people and groups the opportunity to have their say. Email comments and suggestions to HaveYourSay@midlothian.gov.uk  You can also write to Have Your Say, Midlothian Council, Midlothian House, Buccleuch Street, Dalkeith EH22 1DN, or speak to your local councillors.