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.

For the next financial year (April 2019 to March 2020), the council faced a budget shortfall of £9.739 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. To balance its budget for 2019/20, the council approved a series of savings measures and utilised the additional Scottish Government funding announced on 31 January 2019.  A Council Tax rise of 4.79% has also been approved. This will take effect from April 2019, resulting in a Band D tax of £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 this year to 15,814 in 2026 and 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 2018/19
Education £88.9m
Adult social care and the elderly £39.8m
Children’s services £15.2m
Property and facilities management £11.1m
General support services £7.8m
Street cleaning, waste collection and disposal £7.7m
Roads maintenance and street lighting £4.2m
Revenues and benefits £6.2m
Business support services £5.2m
Communities and economic development £1.7m
Digital services £2.4m
Libraries and customer services £2.3m
Sport and leisure £1.7m
Travel and fleet services £0.3m
Parks and open spaces £1.9m
Loan charges to fund capital investment £7.0m
Environmental health and trading standards £0.8m
Planning and building standards £0.7m
Other central costs £2.0m
Recharges, targeted savings and other income £6.0m
Total spending £200.9m

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.  Our funding shortfall for 2019/20 was £9.739 million. To balance its budget for 2019/20, the council approved a series of savings measures and utilised the additional Scottish Government funding announced on 31 January 2019.  A Council Tax rise of 4.79% has also been approved. This will take effect from April 2019, resulting in a Band D tax of £1,344.

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.

The council has 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. Why can’t we put up Council Tax?

A. A Council Tax rise of 4.79% has been approved by the council for 2019/20. This is the maximum allowed by the Scottish Government. However, Council Tax currently pays for less than 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. Even with a rise in Council Tax of 4.79% in 2019/20, the council was still left with a substantial budget gap which it has had to meet by making savings and increasing charges.

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

A. The council is increasing charges for some services in 2019/20 and is looking at new ways of bringing in income to help pay for the services it provides. However, this alone was not enough to fill the budget gap. The council has also had to make savings by 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 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 this year and beyond. You can find out more about the consultation and 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 by 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.

Recognising the impact of a rapidly growing population and greater demand for services, the council is also planning a strategic step change in its financial planning. This will include bringing forward a medium-term financial strategy before the summer of 2019, with planned and balanced budgets covering the next four years up to 2023/24.

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

A. Discussions with voluntary and community groups were held as part of the budget engagement process which took place over the winter of 2018/19.  Community engagement meetings were also held to give local groups the opportunity to have their say. Although our 2019/20 budget consultation has officially ended, you can still email comments and suggestions to [email protected]