Community Councils call for 'no more Midlothian Council cuts' in stinging open letter

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Midlothian cuts ‘unacceptable and will disproportionately affect the lowest paid’

The Midlothian Federation of Community Councils has written an open letter to Midlothian Council raising its concerns that proposed budget cuts will impact the poorest communities in the county.

The Federation wrote the open letter ahead of tomorrow’s Midlothian Council special meeting in Dalkeith to discuss draft budget proposals. The letter about the “unacceptable” proposals has been sent to the local elected representatives of Midlothian Council, Scottish Government and the Government of the United Kingdom, as well as the chief executive of Midlothian Council.

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A total of 174 teachers could lose their jobs over the next five years in Midlothian under the council’s budget cuttings proposals. As well as cutting teaching staff, school librarians could be axed in secondary schools, with proposals to reduce the instrumental music service to offer only as much as Scottish Government funding pays for. There are also proposals to close St Matthew’s RC Primary School in Rosewell, introduce self-service public libraries, scrap school crossing patrols from traffic lights and zebra crossing and withdraw funding for Christmas lights.

Robert Hogg has written the open letter ahead of tomorrow's meeting at Midlothian House in Dalkeith.Robert Hogg has written the open letter ahead of tomorrow's meeting at Midlothian House in Dalkeith.
Robert Hogg has written the open letter ahead of tomorrow's meeting at Midlothian House in Dalkeith.

Robert Hogg, chairman of Midlothian Federation of Community Councils, said: “The cuts proposed by Midlothian Council are unacceptable and will disproportionately affect the lowest paid, elderly and those without digital skills or devices. Midlothian Council key priorities for 2022-23 are to improve health and learning outcomes and prevent child and household poverty, yet these cuts will significantly increase the inequalities in these areas.

"The suggestion that volunteers can take over services is unworkable fantasy. The impact of these proposals has not been fully and properly investigated with councillors expected to make decisions without accurate information. We recognise the crisis in local authority funding which must now be addressed by councillors, COSLA and the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy. Our message is simple – No more cuts.”

The proposals have been put together by council officers to save £7.3 million rising to £16m in 2025/ 26, with the current projected budget gap for 2023/24 at £14.5m rising to a projected £26.5m by 2027/28. The remaining budget gap, if all savings proposals presented are approved, would be £7.2m in 2023/24 rising to £10.5m in 2027/28.

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A Midlothian Council spokesman said: “We have invited the Federation of Community Councils to the special meeting of the full council tomorrow (Tuesday). Representatives will be given time to present a deposition outlining their concerns to councillors. No decisions have been made. The council welcomes all feedback, which will be considered by councillors before the budget setting meeting on Tuesday, February 21.”