Council officials again accused of overstepping their authority

Officials ordered to produce a report on cash-saving procurement scheme.
Officials ordered to produce a report on cash-saving joint procurement scheme.

MORAY COUNCIL OFFICIALS have once again been accused of stepping beyond their remit when it emerged they had decided not to take part in a cash-saving administration scheme.

Earlier this month neighbouring councils in Aberdeen, Aberdeenshire and Highland revealed that they were merging their procurement departments, giving them greater purchasing power in a plan that is expected to save millions for the three councils.

That prompted questions on why Moray Council had not been involved – with Councillors completely unaware of any such moves until the announcement was made.

It emerged at a meeting of the Policy and Resources Committee yesterday that it was leading council officials who took the decision not to become involved – the second time in a matter of weeks were decisions have apparently been taken by officials rather than being put before elected members.

Last week an email from a council official to elected members announced that free provision of dog waste bags was to end. Within hours the email was withdrawn amid protests from Councillors who insisted that was a decision for them, not officials – a position quickly accepted by senior officials.

At Tuesday’s meeting, SNP deputy leader at Moray Council, Graham Leadbitter, challenged officials over why Moray had not been involved in the cash-saving join procurement scheme – and was told that the scheme “did not suit us” by corporate director Mark Palmer.

Raising the issue, Councillor Leadbitter said: “This [scheme] strikes me as something that should have been considered by a committee of elected members. We seem to be completely unaware of these discussions, we should have been told about what the potential benefits of a shared project were.

“Given the level of savings that were identified this raises some serious questions.”

Responding, Mr Palmer told the Elgin councillor “you need to trust your senior officers”. He added: “We are certainly not being dismissive of opportunities but this did not suit us.”

Officials were ordered by the committee to prepare a report on the arrangement that would allow them to debate the issue at a future meeting.