No resignation or hat-eating as Council leader wins the day

Independent/Tory administration succeed in forcing through their budget
Independent/Tory administration succeed in forcing through their budget

THE MORAY COUNCIL Administration group has succeeded in having its budget passed through a meeting of the Full Council this afternoon by two votes.

An at times acrimonious meeting discussed two major plans on the table – that of the Independent/Tory administration, and an alternative put forward by the SNP opposition group.

The public learned for the first time that one member of the Administration group – Councillor Fiona Murdoch – was not content to accept the Council Tax freeze imposed by the Scottish Government.

Councillor Murdoch said she favour going ahead with defying the freeze in spite of the conditions placed on the local authority – and had, as a result, withdrew from the Administration group.

Several of the measures being proposed by the Administration required a suspension of standing orders, as they related to issues that had only been agreed within the last six months. These including £60,000 being spent on a parking review in Elgin – in the event, all such proposals had to be withdrawn from the budget proposals as they did not receive the required two-thirds majority.

In addition, the Leader of Moray Council, Stewart Cree, said there had been representations from Labour Councillor John Divers over the planned 10% increase to school lunch charges. In light of that, the Administration had agreed to amend that to a 5% increase.

The meeting had to be suspended briefly when a fierce row broke out over SNP plans to include the scrapping of the Elgin Western Link Road as a ‘saving’. It was argued that it could not be regarded as such in isolation, and would also require a suspension of standing orders before it was considered.

Following stern exchanges between fellow Tory’s Councillor Douglas Ross and the convener, Councillor Allan Wright, a ten-minute recess was called to allow legal advice – and a chance for the combatants to cool down.

Following several hours of discussion Councillor Murdoch said that she had arrived with the view of supporting the SNP budget – however, on listening to the debate she had come to the conclusion that it was actually “unconvincing and unbelievable” – and accordingly would change her mind and vote instead in favour of the Administration proposals.

That resulted in the vote swinging firmly in favour of the Independent/Tory plans which won the day by 13 votes to 11.

Details of the budget approved can be found online at the Moray Council website.