Today Colin Beattie, Midlothian North and Musselburgh MSP, set out his position on the extraordinary budget statements made recently by Council leader Derek Milligan. Cllr Milligan was quoted on 6th February as saying:
‘In Midlothian, we are still faced with a 1.5 per cent cut when our population growth requires that spending increases considerably….It’s horrendous that the continued underfunding of this council by Scottish Government means we find ourselves in an even more acute position…Midlothian’s position is particularly acute, given we are the fastest growing local authority in Scotland.’
Colin Beattie MSP responded by saying:
‘Frankly, this statement is risible and not worth the paper it was printed on.
‘The simple fact of the matter is that, with the additional funding powers made available to the Council, the recent Scottish Government budget proposal is giving Midlothian Council an additional £10.35 million over last year’s budget. That’s an inflation busting 5.98% overall increase over the previous financial year when all elements are included.
‘Midlothian may well be the fastest growing local authority, but projected growth does not automatically equate to an immediate requirement for expenditure.
‘Cllr Milligan’s own internal auditor was reported as blaming elected councillors and officers for the drastic reduction in the Council’s reserves over the past three years, adding a stark warning that these reserves could run out in the 2019-20 financial year. If this report is accurate, I’m afraid to say he has a nerve calling on the Scottish Government to fix the Council’s own errors – especially when there is tangible proof that the Council is being treated fairly.
‘We must also not forget that council funding is set by the Labour controlled local authority umbrella body COSLA, of which Midlothian Council is a signed up member. The Labour administration previously formally agreed the formula for allocating funding to councils. If Cllr Milligan had real concerns the time to raise them would have been during the funding process.
‘Frankly I now have to question the competence of the Labour Administration to manage the finances of the Council.
‘I call on Cllr Milligan to stop creating alarm and fear for the people of Midlothian and to balance the council budget and deliver the essential services which are needed.’