MSPs have their say on Midlothian Council budget

Michelle Ballantyne and Christine Grahame.
Michelle Ballantyne and Christine Grahame.

Local MSPs have had their say on Midlothian Council’s budget for 2019/20, which was approved last week.

Conservative South Scotland List MSP Michelle Ballantyne hit out at SNP councillors for having no draft budget and instead calling for a deferral for cross-party discussion.

While Midlothian South MSP Christine Grahame (SNP) praised the Labour administration for dropping plans to cut a host of services and close many facilities including libraries, public toilets and leisure centres.

At the meeting, councillors agreed to implement their new tax setting powers and a council tax rise of 4.79 per cent was agreed.

The local SNP group have been criticised for not setting forward any feasible budget plans. Ms Ballantyne said: “Whether at a local or national level, once again we have an SNP administration failing to take responsibility for its actions. It speaks volumes that the Midlothian SNP councillors couldn’t put forward a serious budget, given that their colleagues at Holyrood have cut funding so badly.

“Midlothian Council has an incredibly difficult job of trying to provide public services whilst overcoming this shortfall in funding. It’s to the detriment of everyone in Midlothian that neither the SNP councillors or the MSP for Midlothian South seems to take this issue seriously.”

Responding to those comments, Councillor Kelly Parry (SNP) said: “The SNP Group worked hard to find a consensus agreement with the Labour group. However the Labour budget – voted through with support from the Tory Provost – included a council tax rise of almost five per cent.

“This is a shocking rise when Midlothian residents are already facing a decrease in services. It is simply unfair.

“We will continue to work hard for Midlothian residents and leave the party political carping from the sidelines to the Tories.”

Meanwhile, Christine Grahame welcomed Midlothian Council’s U-turn on the proposed cuts. She said: “I’m delighted these cuts have now been ruled out, although I share my constituents’ anger that they were proposed in the first place.

“Music tuition, sports programmes, libraries and leisure centres are not ‘add-ons’ to the service provided in Midlothian. They are a vital part of our communities that make a real difference to people’s quality of life.

“I therefore absolutely welcome this U-turn, which is due in no small part to the campaigns by the local communities.”