Council examines potential budget saving opportunities

Midlothian Council needs to look at savings options in a bid to balance its budget.
Midlothian Council needs to look at savings options in a bid to balance its budget.

Changing the frequency of bin collections, closing Penicuik Recycling Centre, stopping support for galas and events and increasing and introducing parking charges are just some of the suggested budget savings that have gone before Midlothian Council.

A special meeting is being held today (Tuesday) as the local authority moves to set its financial strategy for the coming years up to 2021/22.

A report going before councillors states: “The impact of the anticipated cuts on council services across Midlothian will be substantial – particularly when we are also faced with the challenges of a growing and ageing population and the increasing demand for services that this will bring.”

Since 2010 savings of £32 million have been made, with £7 million of these in 2017/18.

However a projected reduction in government funding for the next financial year is expected to create a shortfall of over £13 million in 2018/19.

And this is expected to rise to a shortfall of over £44 million by 2021/22.

Council officers are putting forward suggestions to elected members of where to try and save money.

These potential options will be considered during a period of public engagement before the local authority is required to put forward its budget for the next financial year.

Cllr Derek Milligan (Lab), council leader, explained: “This is the horrific cuts being faced by local goverments across Scotland coming home to roost in Midlothian.

“We’re coming from a really bad position with the last administration over spending by £4 million last year.

“The council officers are coming forward with their suggestions on how to meet the challenges for the next four years and these will go out for engagement with communities and service users.

“There are some suggestions that absolutely horrify me. Some are questionable if they are going to achieve the savings. But in reality this council is faced with finding over £13 million in savings by April 1 next year.

“If during the engagement process the community, users or politicians don’t agree, they need to come forward with other possible options.”

Cllr Pauline Winchester, Conservative group leader, said: “Midlothian Council will have to make cuts to provide a balanced budget.

“Labour have been in administration since May and became the administration knowing the council would need to do this.

“They have apparently been working on the budget since then so it is unfair that they blame Council Officers for the paper put forward for public consultation.

“Some of the proposals from the Labour group make cuts to front line services which the Conservatives would prefer not to. Therefore the Conservatives will put forward some proposals of alternative areas of potential savings.”