Midlothian Council 'needs to deal' with budget shortfall
Midlothian Council needs to deal with a significant budget shortfall as it faces pressures as the fastest-growing Scottish council, the local government public spending watchdog has said.
In a report, the Accounts Commission said the council urgently needed a financial strategy to address a £14.5m budget shortfall by 2022/23.
Midlothian also has a projected 13% rise in its population by 2026.
The council said it welcomed the report's findings.
The watchdog said in recent years the council had used its funding reserves rather than make difficult decisions on how services were provided.
It said all councillors now needed to show better leadership in pushing forward necessary changes.
The council has delivered high profile projects in schools, housing and transport, which the Accounts Commission said would help it when addressing its challenges.
Tim McKay, Accounts Commission member, said: "Midlothian needs to address the significant challenges it faces - the cumulative funding gap and the additional pressures from a fast-expanding population.
"The council has a good record of working with its partners and local communities. This will help in supporting a medium-term strategy and transformation programme to get its finances and services in good shape for the future."
Council leader Derek Milligan said: "The report rightly points out that, with the fastest growing population in Scotland, Midlothian Council faces an increasing funding gap and significant financial challenges.
"In recently agreeing a new medium-term financial strategy, the council has already taken steps to address a number of these key issues and is putting robust plans in place to bring about the transformation in services that is now needed.
"We have not drawn on our reserves to balance our budget over the last two years as is suggested here, and indeed this year we have come in under budget.
"When it comes to showing better leadership, the Best Value report is actually highlighting the need for closer working between the three political groups - something that we have already addressed in developing our new financial strategy."