Proposed Midlothian Council cuts spark outrage

Pictured clockwise from top left: Danderhall Leisure Centre, Newtongrange Library, Dalkeith Public Toilets, Dalkeith Library and Penicuik Recycling Centre, which are all under threat of closure.
Pictured clockwise from top left: Danderhall Leisure Centre, Newtongrange Library, Dalkeith Public Toilets, Dalkeith Library and Penicuik Recycling Centre, which are all under threat of closure.

Widespread cuts to services by Midlothian Council have sparked anger as the local authority looks at ways of meeting a £7.4 million funding gap.

Midlothian Council Leader, Councillor Derek Milligan, is warning that despite last week’s announcement by Finance Minister Derek Mackay of changes to the Scottish Government’s grant settlement, Midlothian councillors are still having to consider cost savings measures which will “decimate” local services.

Next Tuesday councillors will mull over a list of proposed cuts to meet that gap including closing Dalkeith, Newtongrange and Gorebridge libraries; ending funding for the Community Safety and Midlothian Community Policing teams; cutting the school crossing guide service; closing all five public toilets; closing Penicuik Recycling Centre; closing Danderhall, Gorebridge and Newtongrange leisure centres; stopping the Active Schools service; ending gala day funding; closing Vogrie golf course; consulting on the future of Glencorse Primary School;and reducing creative arts provision in schools.

A protest is to be held outside Tuesday’s council meeting calling on Midlothian Council to abandon its proposal to axe extra paid-for school music tuition. A petition – https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-midlothian-music-tuition – has set-up.

Organiser Tracey Rapson warned of the knock-on impact of such a cut. She said: “The social aspect of playing in a school band was incredibly important to my son who went through a bout of depression whilst at high school. The outcome could have been much worse for him if he didn’t have music to fall back on.

“At a time when CAMHS are already struggling to cope with the number of referrals, I honestly believe the council have set off a mental health time bomb in Midlothian’s children with this blatant disregard for the importance of musical education.”

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) has slammed the decision of Midlothian Council to axe instrumental music tuition in its schools.

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said: “This penny-pinching move will rob young people in Midlothian of an invaluable opportunity to develop their musical abilities, and deny them the many added benefits that instrumental instruction can offer. Learning music benefits young people in terms of their self-confidence, and in their ability to work both independently or as part of a larger group. It is a bitter irony that, shortly after the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee has recommended that instrumental music tuition should be provided free by all local authorities, the response of Midlothian Council is to scrap music tuition altogether. Midlothian Council must reconsider this shameful decision as a matter of urgency.”

Another petition – https://bit.ly/2WuxjOh – has been set-up against plans to close Newtongrange Library, which survived closure six years ago. Petition founder Julie Read said: “In 2013 we fought a strong campaign to save Newtongrange Library from closure, due to council cuts. Midlothian Council chamber saw the SNP administration vote to keep our facilities open and in council control. Under recent proposals it’s clear our library is under threat again, Midlothian Council is going against its word.

“Please support us, from near and far - to keep our village library open.”

Cllr Milligan put the proposed cuts down the Scottish Government’s grant settlement for local authorities and called for a fairer distribution of funds. He said: “In Midlothian, we are still faced with a 1.5 per cent cut when our population growth requires that spending increases considerably. Even if councillors agree to increase Council Tax by the 4.79 per cent allowed by the government, we’re still facing devastating decisions on jobs and services.

“Given the severity of the grant settlement announced last December officers have had to bring forward a set of measures which are, quite frankly, catastrophic.

“I, along with other council leaders in the Lothians, have written to Mr Mackay asking for an urgent, independent review on how local authorities are funded.

“It’s horrendous that the continued underfunding of this council by Scottish Government means we find ourselves in an even more acute position.

“While the majority of local authorities are also facing similar cuts, Midlothian’s position is particularly acute, given we are the fastest growing local authority in Scotland.”