Lothian councils face more cuts after Scottish Government funding revealed

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CITY council bosses will need to find an extra £10 million of savings after hearing how much they are to get from the Scottish Government next year.

The funding for the Capital under Finance Secretary Derek Mackay’s budget is less than the council had anticipated.

And it’s a similar picture for the other Lothian councils, which all face more cuts to balance the books.

Edinburgh finance convener Alasdair Rankin said the city was getting around £10m less than predicted.

He said: “It means we are going to have to make some difficult decisions to balance the budget. That was already likely even under our own assumptions, but that has just become a little harder.

“We will be looking at a whole range of things which we hope will be able to mitigate that – income maximisation measures, looking more carefully at sharing services with other councils, whatever methods we can realistically put in place to raise our income rather than reduce services.”

But he said there was still a chance that the SNP’s negotiations with other parties to get the budget passed at Holyrood would result in more money becoming available, as happened last year.

Potential cuts put forward by officials include less spending on roads, waste collections and schools and closing all but two of the city’s public toilets.

Cllr Rankin said final proposals would be drawn up next month and made available for people to comment on before the budget is fixed in February.

He said: “We have gone back to officers and said, ‘We have seen the options you have given us, we want to see what else might be possible instead’ so we will be looking at some new proposals, not just what has been considered in the past, but they might not be any more palatable.”

Midlothian council leader Derek Milligan said the budget settlement would have a “catastrophic” effect on services. He said Midlothian had already agreed £2.5m efficiencies but now faced a gap of nearly £7m, adding: “That’s getting on for £10m of cuts when what we should be doing is investing.”

An East Lothian Council spokesman said: “While we are continuing to analyse the detail of the settlement and its implications, it is clear East Lothian Council faces a further significant real terms reduction in the amount of funding available to us in the next financial year.

“The council continues to deal with significant financial challenges in providing services across Scotland’s fastest growing council area, with increased costs, inflation and obligations to implement national policy commitments.

A West Lothian Council spokesman said the budget would not cover essential services in 2019.

“Currently the council is expecting to have to reduce spending by £65.3m over the next five years due to funding from the Scottish Government not being sufficient to cover increasing costs of providing services.

“This inevitably means choices have to be made locally that impact on services that are much valued by residents.”