This week, Midlothian Council – an administration run by Scottish Labour propped up by votes from the Scottish Conservatives – has successfully widened the gulf between their party and the Corbyn-led iteration in England by another significant margin – and it has done this with just two motions.
The first was a motion to cut Grants Funding to Midlothian’s third sector, which is primarily made up of voluntary agencies and charities. This sector provides vital services across the constituency, and directly affects Midlothian Voluntary Action, the organisation behind the Midlothian Council For Voluntary Services, who have now found their jobs at risk because of this decision.
The MVA does more than just support the third sector; they also run the Woodburn Day Care, host the Community Care Forum, and host the Social Enterprise Alliance. It is clear that these cuts, which both Labour and the Tories voted for, will directly affect our community’s most vulnerable families and constituents.
But the sting in the tail of this decision is what happened next. Merely an hour later, reports coming from the Council confirmed that Labour – again, supported by votes from the Tories – had passed a motion to drop a cool £20,000 on redesigning the top floor of the Council building, including plans for a new large “meeting room” for the Provost, and rearranging of further rooms to provide new “work spaces” – a phrase which here means “Councillors’ Offices”.
Just let that sink in for a moment. On the same day as they cut funding to voluntary and charity services, no doubt as a “cost-saving exercise”, they simultaneously decided to set aside £20,000 for a vanity project to give themselves fancy new offices, seemingly saying that the council tax of Midlothian residents is better spent on the Council itself than the services residents depend on.
All this from an administration that has lambasted the Scottish Government for cutting Council Budgets, and pledged that every financial decision be made in the best interests of Midlothian residents. Perhaps our “Dynamic Duo”, Derek Milligan and Pauline Winchester, can spin some yarn to justify their actions, but with these decisions coming in the face of the Welfare Cap, an increase in the number of families using foodbanks (which absolutely fall under the Third Sector), and Derek’s decision to pay Pauline an “enhanced salary” despite performing no duties beyond that of a normal Councillor, it is becoming increasingly clear that the only residents who benefit from the decisions of this Council are the Councillors themselves.
Serving to highlight the Labour division further, we need only look at the newly elected MP for the constituency. Miss Rowley, whose politics are the epitome of what Corbyn’s Labour stands for, was working for homeless charity Shelter Scotland before she was elected as our Westminster representative. Her comments upon election seem to indicate her continued commitment to the support of Third Sector services – what then is her response to her own party cutting the funding of those services in the constituency she represents?
Danielle Rowley asked Midlothian to vote Labour, to beat the SNP and the Tories, to combat austerity and ensure that the poorest and the most vulnerable in society are protected.
It seems that our decision to do so was misplaced – and until Scottish Labour’s politics begin to reflect those of their English counterparts, a vote for Labour will do nothing but increase the pinch that many in Midlothian feel every day.