Council to write to residents about tax

Midlothian House, where last weeks meeting was held.
Midlothian House, where last weeks meeting was held.

Midlothian Council is to write to all residents informing them that it is not responsible for the recent rise to higher council tax bands .

The move, estimated by council officers to cost £20,000, was made by Councillor Peter De Vink (Indp) and Cllr Milligan (Lab) at last week’s full council meeting, with their motion gaining approval by 11 votes to six.

Chief Executive Kenneth Lawrie will now write to all Midlothian households explaining that the increase in council tax bands E-H, which affects 20,000 homes in the county, came from the Scottish Government and not Midlothian Council’s decision makers. The SNP described the move as a “complete waste of money”, with the estimated delivery cost for the letter questioned by Labour.

Cllr Derek Milligan (Lab) said: “I think its utterly important to get this out to the public, as the motion says we have now got thousands of tax payers paying more money, some considerably more.

“People are asking why charges have went up for services and the reality is that even with these large increases this council faces an absolute nightmare over the next five years. A £4 million deficit, and very little reserves left in comparison to what the SNP took over. It’s really important that the public understand that this council, even with these rises, is going to have to find millions and millions of pounds.”

He added his belief that it would cost £4,000 to send the letter to all Midlothian residents, a quarter of the cost estimated by officers.

Councillor Kelly Parry (SNP) said: “I’m quite speechless at this motion.

“Added to the fact that this motion is clearly politically motivated, £20,000 is a lot of money and I think that asking those with the broadest shoulders to pay a bit more is fair. All it does is take £20,000 of council money to tell people they are paying more who already know as we wrote to them in February, and to those not paying more. It doesn’t make any sense and I think this sails close to the wind of utter incompetence.”

Cllr Parry then made a compromise suggestion to put the information on the council’s website instead. While Green councillor Ian Baxter suggested writing to only the households affected.

However Cllr Andrew Coventry, who is to leave the SNP and stand as an independent candidate on May 4 said: “I’m going to support this motion, it’s about being open and honest with the public so they are fully aware of what the situation is.”