Council approves budget for 2019/20
Midlothian Council has voted to reject a number of savings measures aimed at meeting a £9.739 million budget shortfall in 2019/20.
Cuts to the council’s instrumental music tuition and creative arts service will not go ahead. The closure of three libraries and three sports centres was also rejected, along with closing public toilets, closing Penicuik recycling centre, closing Buccleuch bowling green, reducing roads maintenance and removing supported bus travel and community transport. Free swimming lessons for Primary 4 pupils will continue and the council’s Active Schools team will be retained. Reductions in learning assistants, adult and youth lifelong learning, and school crossing guides have also been rejected and funding for the Midlothian community policing team will continue.
To balance its budget for 2019/20, the council has approved a series of other savings measures and utilised the additional Scottish Government funding announced on 31 January. A Council Tax rise of 4.79% has also been approved which will take effect from April, resulting in a Band D tax of £1,344.
Savings and other measures to increase income which have been agreed include reductions in senior management, closing Vogrie golf course, reducing grass cutting and shrub bed maintenance, reducing cleaning in non-school buildings, stopping the taxi card scheme, increasing car parking charges, reducing the budget for school transport, and ending funding for the community safety and healthy lifestyle development teams.
Midlothian Council Leader, Councillor Derek Milligan commented: “The impact some of the savings measures would have had on Midlothian’s communities was unacceptable to us, which is why they have been rejected by the council. We have also heard, loud and clear, the concerns of local people and their passionate support for the local services and facilities that mean so much to them.
“However, like many councils across the country, Midlothian is struggling to cope with successive reductions in the core government funding needed to maintain the levels of service that the public expect and deserve. This is made worse by the rapid growth in population that we are having to deal with, and plan for,” added Councillor Milligan.
“This means that we have still had to take some very tough decisions in setting our budget and in making savings and increasing charges - including putting up Council Tax by the maximum 4.79% allowed by the Scottish Government.
“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, with planned and balanced budgets covering the next four years up to 2023/24.”