Council Leader warns of serious financial challenges ahead

Midlothian Council Leader Councillor Derek Milligan is warning of serious financial challenges ahead thanks to a Scottish Government budget that is “a bad deal for communities”.

Budget gap of £13.5 million

Speaking as the  cross party working group of councillors faces a budget gap of £13.5 million for the year ahead, Cllr Milligan said: “We’re disappointed and frustrated that once again local councils’ pleas for a fair settlement to help people live well locally have been ignored and that our own calls for funding to support a growing population have not been acted on by Government.

Felt most keenly by communities

“The core settlement, which represents a cut of £100 million across Scotland even before pressures like inflation are taken into account, will be felt most keenly by those who can least afford it – our communities and our workers.
“As agreed unanimously at the COSLA Leaders’ Group, this is a bad deal for communities.

Already challenging budget predictions

“The cross party working group had worked together to navigate through what we all thought was a pessimistic budget outlook for the year ahead. Despite that, we had a plan in place to balance next year’s budget without imposing service cuts on our communities. The settlement published on 20 December means we now estimate that we are a further £6 million worse off than those already challenging budget predictions.  If we were to pass that on to our residents that figure alone would be the equivalent of a 10.3% Council Tax increase.” 

Concerned about Early Learning and Childcare funding

Cllr Milligan was particularly concerned with the drop in the government funding to deliver the 1,140 hours of early learning and childcare (ELC) for all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds.

Need to give children the best start in life

He said: “The ELC funding for Midlothian has been cut by £1.5 million. While part of this will be a cut over three years, it still begs the question of how on earth are we supposed to give our children, many of whom are living in areas of high deprivation, the best start in life without funding to provide high quality early learning?”

Fastest growing local authority area

Cllr Milligan said COSLA leaders agreed the latest government settlement comes after years of cuts to core funding to local councils. “As a council in the fastest growing local authority area in Scotland this settlement gives us nothing to support growth , to sustain essential services or support recovery from COVID in the coming years,” he said.

Council Tax cap removed

The Council Leader added that, as discussed and agreed by COSLA leaders, while the government’s decision to take away the Council Tax cap was welcome, local people can’t be expected to foot the bill because of a poor settlement.

Must fight for a fairer settlement

He said: “These cuts in funding by Scottish Government are affecting vulnerable people and indeed our workforce the hardest so we need to continue to fight for a fairer settlement rather than let local people face the consequences of devastating cuts to essential services.”

19 Jan 2022