Council plans major savings programme to meet budget shortfall
A series of savings options aimed at addressing Midlothian Council’s budget gap in 2018/19 and subsequent years are currently being developed by the council’s chief officers.
Current projections show that the council is facing a severe budget shortfall next year of £12.9 million. By 2021/22, this could be as much as £43.2 million.
The shortfall is the result of continuing cuts in government funding at a time of increased demand from a growing population for key services such as education and social care. Even if council tax is increased again next year by the 3% allowed by the Scottish Government, the council will still face a budget gap of £11.6 million, rising to £38 million by 2021/22.
Cost of services
The cost of services this year totals £199 million and is expected to rise to more than £204 million in 2018/19. It is estimated that £45.6 million of next year’s spending will be met from council tax, with £146 million coming in the form of Scottish Government grant. This leaves the shortfall of £12.9 million, which equates to 6% of the net cost of council services.
The work currently underway to identify savings will take the form of a comprehensive change programme, to be presented to the council this September. Councillors will then make their final budget decisions for next year in the early part of 2018.
Midlothian Council Leader, Councillor Derek Milligan commented: “The horrendous cuts in council funding expected from the Scottish Government, at a time of growing demand for essential services, means that we are facing unprecedented financial challenges. The council needs to take some very tough decisions which will have a severe impact on our ability to deliver critical local services at current levels.
Focus on greatest need
“The wide-ranging cuts to services and savings proposals being drawn up by our senior officers are needed to address the severity of the shortfall, while at the same time ensuring that we continue to focus our efforts on those communities, families and individuals who are in the greatest need,” said Councillor Milligan.
Demands for no further reductions
The council also agreed to councillor Milligan’s suggestion that he write to the MP and MSPs representing Midlothian, along with the Prime Minister and Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance, demanding that there should be no further reductions in the Scottish Government grant funding to Midlothian Council.
“In addition, I will be seeking a meeting with the Scottish Finance Minister to explain our position, and asking him to ensure that any adjustment in grant funding resulting from the projected massive increases in house building across our county do not lag behind the actual increases in population,” said Councillor Milligan.