Fears that budget consultation questions ‘may not be understood’

Fears expressed over budget consultation questions.
Fears expressed over budget consultation questions.

COMMUNITY LEADERS ARE insisting that if Moray Council are to be taken seriously over their desire to consult over serious budget cuts they need to review the questions being asked.

The local authority has insisted that before they take any decisions over where they can save around £14million over the next year, then the public must be consulted.

Aware of a accusations over past consultation exercises, the Independent/Tory Administration are keen to reassure the public that no definitive decisions have been or will be taken until the public views are taken into account.

However, an influential community council leader is raising concerns over the broad nature of the questions being asked, insisting that they are not specific enough to provide meaningful guidance.

Chairman of the Joint Community Councils of Moray, Alistair Kennedy, has said that while the chance to influence the decision-making process was welcome, he found it difficult to give a definitive answer to many of the questions being asked.

He said: “They are just too broad – a lot of people might not know some of the services the council offers, and I worry that people will not respond to it in the way they would if the questions were more direct.”

Repeating his previous assurances that the survey would be open, Council Leader Alan Wright said: “I promise residents that we have not reached any conclusions and that we will not reach any until later in the year.

“The survey is intended to be open – we do not want to put people off contributing and the only thing we know for sure is that we need to make big savings in 2017/18.”

In a report to Councillors in May, corporate services director Mark Palmer said that ‘more detailed information” would be made available to members of the public “to learn more about the services provided by the council, the budget allocations for those services and the external requirements and constraints within which the council is required to operate.”

He added: “In terms of engagement with communities, the first challenge will be to gain a much wider understanding of the financial situation and the types of changes councillors will have to make.”

Councillors have previously warned that unpopular cuts may need to be proposed, including such as library services, leisure facilities and road crossing patrols.