THE MAIN SNP opposition group at Moray Council say that they are set to propose a very different and “responsible” budget when options are discussed in the Council Chamber on Wednesday.
Maintaining their national party line over the Council Tax Freeze, SNP councillors claim that they have still managed to find substantially more savings than those being proposed by the current Administration.
The SNP plans will be published in full later today, when they will detail an additional £3million being saved – including the scrapping of the Elgin West Link road project, which they claim would save £180,000 in the first year and £770,000 in each subsequent year in capital interest payments.
Group leader Councillor Gary Coull also insists that the SNP plan will reverse all the economic development cuts being proposed by the Administration group – although they will still increase school meal charges and raise music tuition charges, these will be “significantly less” than are currently being proposed.
They will remove the threat to remove the subsidy paid to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in a raft of measures that have been agreed with the Council’s Head of Financial Services.
Councillor Coull said: “By proposing a crazy 18% Council Tax rise the Independent/Tory Administration of Moray Council showed just how bereft of ideas they are. Their own budget shows how they jumped in with both feet and why no increase to Council Tax was ever needed.
“The SNP has worked on alternative proposals that will save the Council £3 million more than the Administration proposals rather than leaving a huge time bomb for next year’s budget.
“At the same time our proposals also protect the least well off from excessive increases in School Meals and Music Tuition charges, they would protect critical services such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and they would protect vital Economic Development investment, which is obviously important for growing our economy and supporting job creation.
“Independent and Tory Councillors seem not to have an original or innovative idea on the direction Moray Council should take.
“We are taking a common sense, practical and sustainable approach that would put the Council on a far better footing to face the ongoing challenges from Tory austerity economics coming from Westminster.”
Last night members of the Council’s Administration group said they were trying to work out just where the SNP had managed to find £3million in savings, with the convener, Councillor Allan Wright, saying that the SNP had said a lot on what they would do – but had yet to give any indication of what they would save on.
He said: “The opposition has seen our plans, and in typical fashion has said it can do better – but I have got no idea how they propose to save all this extra money.”
Council leaders are also questioning the validity of claiming budget cuts on the Elgin Link Road when that project is currently yet to receive planning permission – pointing out that there could be no cost saving if such permission was not granted for a project that was initially in any case the idea of the SNP.
Leader of Moray Council, Councillor Stewart Cree, insisted last night that if the SNP had found “reasonable ways” of saving an additional £3million “I’m going to have to buy a hat so that I can eat it”.
He added that bringing the Link Road into the issue was done purely for political reasons: “It is entirely inappropriate for the opposition group to promote anything against an infrastructure project.
“Proposals like this are akin to these councillors burying their head in the sand – rather like their political leaders in Holyrood. They have not addressed the clear under-funding that there is for councils across Scotland, they are clearly a political group who are not going to criticise their masters.
“We are taking a long-term view, the SNP plans are short-term designed to be popular.”