Council takes action to meet budget shortfall
A multi-million pound savings programme, aimed at addressing Midlothian Council’s budget shortfall over the next four years, was put before councillors at a special meeting today, Tuesday 10 October.
Current projections show that the council is facing a shortfall next year of £13.5 million. It is estimated that this will rise to £45 million by 2021/22.
Series of measures to meet shortfalls
£9.3 million in savings are proposed for 2018/19, rising to £28.9 million by 2021/22. They are part of a series of measures to meet the shortfalls, which are the result of continuing cuts in Scottish Government funding at a time of increased demand from a growing population for key services such as education and social care.
Radical overhaul of some services
The work to identify savings has been carried out by the council’s senior officials and is likely to see a radical overhaul of some services, resulting in staffing cuts, increased charges and reduced service provision. There are also proposals to transform how the council works with local communities, further embraces digital technology and becomes more entrepreneurial.
Plans for public engagement
There will now be a period of public engagement on the proposals before councillors finalise the budget for the next financial year in the early part of 2018. A series of meetings with local community groups are scheduled to take place in early November.
Unprecedented financial challenges
“Midlothian faces unprecedented financial challenges, as a result of the continuing, severe cuts in Scottish government funding at a time of growing demand for vital public services,” said council leader, Councillor Derek Milligan. “75% of our funding comes from the Scottish Government and the amount we receive is being drastically reduced year after year, despite the increased pressure from a fast growing population on education, health, social care, child protection and other services.
“All of this means that the council now needs to take some very tough decisions which will undoubtedly have a severe impact on our ability to deliver services at current levels. The savings proposals being drawn up by senior council officials are aimed at addressing the budget shortfall, while at the same time allowing us to continue focusing our priorities on protecting the most vulnerable in our communities.”
Impact on services
Because some parts of Midlothian Council’s budget, such as teacher costs and services for children and the elderly, are either fixed or face increased demands, the impact of funding cuts on other council services is expected to be severe. The shortfall in the remainder of the budget for next year amounts to 14% of the cost of services, rising to a potential 50% by 2021/22.
Council Tax currently pays for 23% of the council’s spending. Even if this is increased every year by the 3% allowed by the Scottish Government, Midlothian Council will still face a budget shortfall of £12.2 million, rising to around £39.6 million by 2021/22.
Have your say
Details of the savings proposals can be found on the Shaping our Future web pages and copies will be available in local libraries from next week. You can email comments and suggestions to HaveYourSay@midlothian.gov.uk, join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter (@midgov #ShapingOurFuture) or write to Have Your Say, Midlothian House, Buccleuch Street, Dalkeith EH22 1DN.