MORAY COUNCILLOR AND local MSP Douglas Ross has hit out at a decision by the local authority to splash out on new staff at a time when essential services are set to be slashed.
Councillor Ross was making his first visit back to the Council chamber since his Holyrood election as a Highlands and Islands MSP – and it was a typically fiery reintroduction.
At the meeting of the Full Council, several items on the agenda related to spending cuts that would need to be made with around £14million needing to be found over the next two years.
However, ahead of these was a proposal that the Council employ four new staff to manage major projects at a cost of £186,000.
It was a move that was “reluctantly agreed” by the main SNP opposition group, with their leader Councillor Gary Coull recognising that it would be difficult for people to understand, but adding that it was clear from discussions he had with the Chief Executive that the posts were required to guide through several upcoming projects.
However, Councillor Ross hit back at the move, saying that it was not appropriate and would not be understood by people in Moray that the Council should agree to increase their staffing level as they were being consulted on savage cutbacks.
During the meeting it was pointed out that the new team would ultimately save money for the council, the Chief Executive pointing to past projects such as the Elgin Flood Alleviation scheme were large savings were made as a result of it being project managed.
The motion to create the new staff team was carried by 21 votes to five – a decision that Councillor Ross later condemned, saying: “I have long argued against an ever increasing number of managers in the council and I truly believe this is an area we have to focus on as we aim to cut budgets even further.
“It makes no sense to say to the public their services will be slashed, what they get for their council tax will be reduced but at the same time employ more highly paid staff.
“While I realise our current managers are busy and under pressure, we are a small local authority and I believe that many of the roles that will be undertaken by this team could be done within the current staffing levels.
“Councillors were left with the option to support the formation of this group or to save almost £200,000 in staff costs. I’m sorry that a majority of councillors endorsed the appointment of more staff at the council headquarters.”
SNP Victory Claim
The SNP opposition group meanwhile claimed victory after the meeting, saying that while they agreed the need for the new posts any proposed budget cuts must include a management review.
Following the decision, SNP opposition leader Gary Coull said: “The SNP has consistently said that the Council needs to review and restructure its management as part of the savings to balance the budget.
“People across Moray regularly tell us that the Council needs to cut back on senior and middle management to help protect frontline services and reduce future cuts to those services.
“We put those proposals in our budget in February and the Independents and Tories in the Administration didn’t take that on board, however, I am pleased that they have come round to supporting that view.”