Services to be cut in half?

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

Midlothian Council’s leader has warned that some local authority services could be facing a 50 per cent cut or even “disappear altogether ”.

Councillor Derek Milligan (Lab) warned this was the harsh reality if further funding cuts from the Scottish Government go ahead, and he urged the Finance Minister to provide more money ahead of their planned meeting today.

Cllr Milligan said that because a significant proportion of the council’s spending is constrained by government, or is in areas of growing demand that need to be protected, other non-protected services would have to take the brunt of cuts the council could be forced to make over the next four years.

He said: “By 2021/22, we expect the cost of our services to be more than £228 million.

“Of this, £140m is spending on things like teachers whose numbers are determined by government, contractual payments which are largely fixed, along with areas such as health, social care and child protection where growing demand from a fast growing population means that our costs will inevitably increase.

“This leaves all our other non-protected services, costing around £88m, facing cuts of more than £44m to meet our expected budget shortfall.

“The impact of a 50 per cent cut in vital local services would be utterly devastating for our communities, badly hurting the families and individuals who rely on the support we provide.”

Speaking ahead of his planned meeting with the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Finance Derek Mackay today (Thursday), Cllr Milligan was adamant that Midlothian Council, the fastest growing local authority area in Scotland, needs additional funding support “to meet the demand for massive growth from the thousands of new houses the Scottish Government insists we allow.”

Cllr Milligan added:“As well as making a plea for more cash for local government in general, when I meet the Minister I will be urging him to provide additional, specific funding for Midlothian on the grounds that we will be harder hit than other areas in terms of the financial impact of housing and population growth.

“Rather than government grants being cut at the levels predicted, they need to be increased to reflect the severe pressures we now face.”

The Scottish Government funding settlement for local councils is expected to be announced on December 14 allowing local authority’s across Scotland to set their budget.