Editorial: Budget slight of hand disguises a painful truth

Sunday Supplement
The editor voices his views on Moray’s most topical events of the past week…..


It was slipped into the Moray Council budget with barely a mention this week – and yet it could be the single most devastating decision that adds further pressure to households who have already suffered much in recent years.

I’m starting out today on that 4.5% increase in rents – an increase that is notable in that it is nine times higher than the current rate of inflation.

As the main political parties squabbled over who is to blame for the teacher recruitment crisis faced by Moray, or slapped each others backs on the “light touch” budget that they only managed to achieve because of a wholly unexpected windfall, those living in council homes must have wondered why not one elected local politician appeared to give a damn for their plight.

Sure, the council administration spin pointed out that it was OK, after all Moray rents are amongst the lowest in the country.

Fair play to the man who is yet to be elected but cared enough to point out that while that may well be the case, it is equally true that many of those living in council accommodation are being paid at the lowest rates of anywhere in Scotland.

Chances are that the Green candidate at the forthcoming general election, James MacKessack Leitch, will not win the day in May – that is a shame because for me he will very likely be the only party candidate who truly hopes to represent his community.

Labouring the point

While I’m on about the budget, the two remaining Labour councillors went to great pains to explain why they stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the independent administration in defeating a move for the immediate restoration of Principal Teacher posts.

They wanted to ensure it was the right thing to do.  They do want to restore Principal Teachers to primary schools, but first they want someone to undertake a study to ensure that there is enough evidence to show that they have been missed.

Seriously?  Hands up those of us who actually believed this spin – those who work at primary schools that lost their Principal Teacher posts, they have not gone out of their way to hide the fact that it has indeed caused them numerous problems.

My view on this was to immediately smell a rat – deals being done in the corridors of Moray Council.  I could be wrong of course, and doubtless I’ll be told I am by those concerned, but this is about my opinion and my opinion is that by killing off this immediate opportunity to alleviate at least part of our teaching crisis Moray Labour were simply well wide of the mark.

Load of Bollards

An elderly gentleman of this parish took the trouble to write to me this week to point out that there was actually an accident on the Harbour road in Lossiemouth that is causing so much angst since bollards were put in place two weeks ago.

That apparently happened way back in the late 1950’s or early 60’s, when a car did indeed tumble into the Harbour. “At the time you could drive straight from the Brander Arms car park into the sea”, local historian Donnie Stewart wrote.

However, before members of the Elgin & Lossiemouth Harbour Board point the finger and say “we told you so”, they should note Donnie’s wise words when he added: “The constriction causing any problem now was caused by the Harbour Board putting their new building into the roadway.”

While the bollards look pretty permanent and an intransigent Harbour Board dig in against some 16,000 people who have now signed an online and offline petition demanding they restore the established public right of way, talks, we are told, continue.

I fear that this one may well end up being decided in court. It does seem that the Harbour Board believe they are correct – even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary. It may well be that the Board believe that nobody would dare challenge them in court.

I’ve a hunch that if indeed they are holding on to that belief the Elgin and Lossiemouth Harbour Board are very, very wrong.

Dr Gray’s

I read with some horror one account by an insideMoray reader of a child who had a broken limb that was not spotted by emergency staff at Dr Gray’s Hospital.

I have to contrast that, however, with my own first-hand experience of our main hospital over this last ten days, where I’ve been a “guest” three times.

All I can say is that there is not a hospital in existence where something does not go wrong at some point – it is bound to happen, these are grossly under pressure doctors and nurses who are, by my observation, as much hog-tied by tedious form-filling administration as they are by caring for the sick.

For almost three years now I’ve been in their care and not one single time have I had anything but magnificent, caring reassurance.   It is perhaps the scariest moment for us all when we have to attend hospital – and while we can point the finger at politicians for their running of the NHS what we surely cannot do, ever, is fail to show our understanding and appreciation for the staff who work at Dr Gray’s.

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