Councillors approve savings
Councillors have agreed to continue to invest in the instrumental music service, to keep P4 swimming lessons and continue funding the Police Scotland Midlothian Community Action Team.
Some savings rejected
The proposals were among a range of savings rejected by councillors at the full Council meeting today (Tuesday).
Rethink on others
While some savings, including stopping funding for gala days and Christmas lights, were taken off the table, others will be reconsidered following the council’s budget meeting today (Tuesday 21 February).
Council Tax rise of 5%
Today’s decisions to help bridge a budget gap of £7.84 million and deliver a balanced budget of more than £260 million, include a 5% rise in Council Tax. The annual Council Tax for a Band D property will go up by £72.13 from £1,442.60 to £1,514.73.
Garden waste charges
Garden waste collection charges will also go up to £40 in 2024/25.
Medium Term Financial Strategy
Having considered the views of more than 1800 local people and organisations who took part in a recent consultation, councillors also agreed some savings proposals will be reviewed. These will be brought back to the full Council no later than June 2023 as part of the updated Medium Term Financial Strategy.
Savings that were approved are:
- Reducing the net cost of benefits by 6%
- Reducing shrub bed maintenance
- Closing seven PPP primary schools during the holidays
- Closing five stand-alone public toilets
- Stopping the night security service at Stobhill Depot
- Removing 5 full-time equivalent vacant facilities management posts
- A review of Land Services (instead of reducing the rangers service from three posts to one, the service in which the rangers sit, Land Services, would be subject to a wider review)
- Reviewing third party contracts in Education
- An administration review in Education
- A 1% reduction in the Devolved School Management Budgets
- Removing a vacant post in the Continuous Improvement team
- Removing a vacant post in the Internal Audit team
Fees and charges to go up
As well as raising fees and charges for services including burials and civic licences and ending small grants for local groups, the council will also apply what’s known as retrospective service concessions to reduce the budget gap by £4.093 million in 2023/24 to 2026/27 and £4.091 million in 2027/28. Retrospective service concessions are financial arrangements with, for example, PPP contractors to build schools. Savings arise from accounting for assets over the period of use rather than the period of the PPP contract.
“No councillors wants to make savings like these but we have a statutory duty to balance our budget,” said Councillor Parry. “We have used all means at our disposal such as financial flexibility in the way we account for PPP contracts to balance our budget and save some services. However, we realise we can’t protect our communities from the harsh impact of some of the decisions we’ve had to make today.”
Thanked the public for their feedback
Councillor Parry said councillors were overwhelmed by the public response to the savings options and thanked everyone who took the time to comment on the proposals.
“What local people told us echoed our own feelings about protecting services for children, elderly and vulnerable people as much as we could within the very severe financial constraints we find ourselves in.”
Note on the service concessions: We are accounting for the PPP assets over a longer period of time, for example 50 years, rather than 25 years as per PPP contracts. This then means lower annual charges and backdated sums from the previous year overpayments.