Our Spending Choices

Our Spending Choices 2020/21 - 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 around three quarters (75%) of what the council has to spend on services. Council Tax pays for a quarter (25%) 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 core services has being reduced and is likely to be reduced further 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. (See question and answer below for more on this).

Savings measures

To balance its budget for 2020/21, the council approved a series of measures set out in its Medium Term Financial Strategy, published in June 2019. These measure are expected to save more than £9 million over the next three years. They include savings from a review of the council’s senior management structure, reducing management costs to protect frontline services and generating more income from some services.

Council Tax

In line with the Medium Term Financial Strategy a Council Tax rise of 4.84% has also been approved for 2020/21. This will take effect from April 2020, resulting in a Band D tax of £1,409. (The Band D tax for 2019/20 was £1,344).

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 was 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 in 2019/20 to 15,814 in 2026 and 22,758 by 2036.

Ageing population

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 in 2019 was 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.

Q. Where does my Council Tax go?

A. Council Tax meets broadly a quarter of the net cost of providing council services in Midlothian (25% in 2020/21). The rest (75%) comes as grant from the Scottish Government.

Key spending

More than half (54%) of what the council spends pays for education, children, young people and partnerships. Over a fifth of all council spending (21%) is money delegated to the Integration Joint Board who are responsible for the delivery of health and social care in Midlothian.

Other services

The remaining 25% 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 providing council housing, which is fully funded from rent paid by tenants.

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 need to find to pay for services to meet the demands of a growing population. 

Changing how we work

To balance its budget for 2020/21, the council approved a series of measures set out in its Medium Term Financial Strategy (approved in June 2019). These include savings from a review of the council’s senior management structure, reducing management costs to protect frontline services and generating more income from some services. These measures are expected to save more than £9 million over the next three years.

Council Tax

In line with the Medium Term Financial Strategy, a Council Tax rise of 4.84% has also been approved. This will take effect from April 2020, resulting in a Band D tax of £1,409.

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.

Housing growth

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 now until 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.

Seeking more funding

The council has previously made representations to the Scottish Government seeking additional, specific funding, given that rapid growth is increasing the demand for services in Midlothian. However, this has not been accepted by Scottish Ministers at this 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. Could Council Tax have gone up more?

A. The Council Tax rise approved by the council for 2020/21 is the maximum allowed by the Scottish Government. Council Tax currently pays a quarter of what the council spends on local services. Around 75% of council funding comes in the form of a grant from the Scottish Government, with core grant reducing in 2020/21. Even with a Council Tax rise of 4.84% the council would still have been left with a substantial budget gap for the financial year starting in April 2020. To bridge this gap, the council agreed a number of savings and other measures set out in its Medium Term Financial Strategy which was approved in June 2019.

Q. Why can’t the council raise more money by introducing new sources of income?

A. The council is looking at new ways of bringing in income to help pay for the services it provides. However, this alone is not enough to fill the budget gap. The council is also having to make savings by changing the way some services are delivered, charging for some services (such as garden waste collection) and reducing some existing services.

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 Single Midlothian 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

Public engagement

The council’s political groups take these priorities into account when working on their budget proposals but the council’s financial challenges mean that they 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 were asked for their views on what the council’s priorities should be when it comes to making spending decisions for the next few years. You can find out more about the results of this consultation on our Spending Choices pages.

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

A. Midlothian Council has in place a Medium Term Financial Strategy which is aimed at transforming services. Council services are also being reviewed to find ways of doing things differently. 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. Consultations with residents, voluntary and community groups and the council’s trades unions are regularly held as part of the budget engagement process.

Have your say

You can also send in questions, comments and suggestions at any time: