MORAY COUNCIL EMPLOYEES became the first people to be briefed on budget proposals that will be debated at a meeting of the Council on Wednesday.
They have been assured that there are no redundancies planned by the local authority administration – nor are any reductions in services anticipated – although there are warnings that the council will face a “huge deficit” in future years.
Full agenda papers for the meeting are due to be published tomorrow (Friday) and these will contain greater detail of where planned savings will be made.
In a message to staff, chief executive Roddy Burns revealed the key elements of the budget measures:
- The Council budget is for expenditure of £202Million in 2016/17.
- Freeze in council tax – this will be the 9th successive year of a council tax freeze. It was widely reported that the Administration Group were planning on including an increase in council tax of 18%. This proposal has been withdrawn due to the significant increase in the sanctions that would be imposed by the Scottish Government if a council chose to increase the tax. For our Council the financial sanction was increased from £1.1million to £6million.
- Savings – reductions of £3.5Million have been identified against current budgets, and of this it is proposed that £0.7Million will be for one year only. Therefore, recurring annual savings will be £2.8M.
- The one-year savings include reductions to training budgets, meaning no expenditure on external trainers, training or conferences. There will be few exceptions to this, such as health and safety, specific requirements for jobs such as apprentices and SVQs for care workers, and specialised training for equipment, vehicles and operational systems.
- Filling vacant posts will undergo more scrutiny. Managers will have to get Corporate Management Team approval to fill any post (apart from teachers because of the Scottish Government requirements around teacher numbers).
- None of the savings identified put any members of staff at risk and should not result in a reduction to any Council services.
- The council will have useable reserves of £18.9Million at the end of this year, and £6.3Million of this will be required to balance the books and maintain services.
Mr Burns added: “However, all these measures add up to the Council starting the financial year this April with a recurring annual shortfall of £7Million. We can use our reserves this year, but this presents a huge challenge for 2017/18.
“Due to continuing growth in demand for services and prices continuing to increase, current estimates for year commencing April 2017 indicate that the recurring shortfall will double to £14million.
“With this in mind a report will be taken to the Council meeting in March recommending extensive engagement with communities on the financial situation and the impact on Council services.
“As most staff live in Moray we will be aiming to utilise existing links with staff, their clubs, societies and social networks to promote this engagement programme.
“More information will be circulated about opportunities to engage and influence changes to Council services over the coming months.