Midlothian Council planning measures to address budget gap
In a financial update presented to a meeting of the full council on Tuesday (August 23), councillors were advised that the Scottish Government’s Resource Spending Review, published in May, sets out an “extremely challenging” position for local government, made worse by rising costs due to inflation and the financial pressures associated with population growth in Midlothian.
As a result of the Spending Review, councils can expect “cash flat” grant settlements from the Scottish Government through to 2025/26, leaving a significant and growing gap between the cost of delivering services and the income available to fund these over that period.
Council officers are currently developing the measures needed to reduce the projected budget gap for next year and beyond. Although some of this work will focus on transforming services through improved business processes, digital solutions and other initiatives, the level of savings needed is likely to have a wide-ranging impact on local services.
As well as setting out the need for savings measures, the financial report revealed that each one per cent a year increase in council tax would generate around £580,000 a year in additional income.
“Clearly this is a major challenge for us, which needs to be addressed with urgency,” said Midlothian Council leader, Cllr Kelly Parry.
“The UK Government needs to do more to address increasing costs and I will continue to press for an emergency budget to tackle the in-year pressures councils are facing. I will also continue to engage with the Scottish Government to make the case for supporting our services and communities, within the limits of the financial powers available.
“Officers are working on proposals and engaging with the cross-party Business Transformation Steering Group with the aim of setting out these measures to councillors, alongside our draft five-year strategic plan, to the full council.
“We also plan to engage fully with our communities and other stakeholders before any decisions are taken by councillors and will be bringing forward proposals for a public consultation as soon as is practical.”
The council’s budget, including council tax levels for 2023/24, is due to be finalised in February 2023.