Midlothian Council leader’s anger at SNP

Councillor Derek Milligan outside Midlothian House in Dalkeith
Councillor Derek Milligan outside Midlothian House in Dalkeith

The Midlothian Labour Group has called on the SNP to join them in working to address financial problems at the local authority.

Speaking after the council’s budget meeting last week, council leader Derek Milligan criticised the SNP for proposing to defer the budget decision.

He said: “The Labour Administration proposed a budget that ensured that many of our vital front-line services would be saved, at least for now.

“Labour councillors rejected a number of measures put forward by management aimed at dealing with the £9.739 million budget gap resulting from the lack of fair Government funding, which would have cut vital services and led to many more job losses.

“The SNP finance spokesperson, on the other hand, appeared content to play games with people’s services and livelihoods, proposing that a decision be put off for another month to allow talks to take place, when they have failed to engage on this issue before now. Another month of uncertainty for our service users and staff.

“She poured scorn on the warnings from officers and the Labour Administration that Midlothian needs to address its serious financial problems, suggesting that they would be pushing to limit the Council tax rise to three per cent and that they would re-introduce free music tuition, all of which would have added another £1million to the budget gap.

“The SNP voted against the Labour proposals to save all the services, despite having posed for the camera just an hour earlier expressing their solidarity with those protesting against the cuts.

“Midlothian Labour will continue to call the Scottish Government to account for their lack of adequate support for our services and will continue to call for the SNP councillors in Midlothian, who do care about our people and our services, to join us in the fight to make sure that these cuts are not simply put back on the table next year.

“We also have to remember that, while we have avoided some of the cuts to front line services, there are a number of measures we have had to accept that will lead to service reductions and job losses.

“We need to put aside our political difference and focus on resolving these issues permanently. We all owe this to our constituents and our county.”

An SNP group spokesperson said: “It is highly convenient of Labour to point fingers at anyone but themselves as a distraction tactic to their own austerity max budget – voted through with support of the Tory Provost.

“Whilst Midlothian was rightly angry about cuts to music tuition, Labour was plotting cuts to antisocial behaviour teams, our children’s sports activities, school budgets and cutting jobs.

“The SNP Group worked hard to find a consensus agreement with the Labour group, despite themselves only having access to the Labour budget on the day of the meeting.

“This is simply smoke and mirrors to hide the enormous, almost five per cent increase to council tax that will be falling though letter boxes shortly– a tax hike the SNP Group strongly opposed in the council chamber.”