A NEW LOOK will be given to the future management of Moray Council owned leisure facilities following pressure this week by the main SNP opposition group.
A prolonged debate on the issue took place at Wednesday’s meeting of the Full Council, during which SNP councillors argued that the local authority needed to push ahead with discussions with outside bodies over the future management of facilities.
Known as ‘Arms Length External Organisations’ (ALEOs), it is a method used by many Councils to operate services and deliver organisations efficiencies. A benefit is that a not-for-profit ALEO would attract savings in business rate that could release as much as £400,000 a year.
The Independent/Tory Administration group had sought to cut services before beginning any discussions with other organisations – but SNP members insisted that by moving forward on the issue immediately, potential saving could be identified that might reduce the number of cuts required to leisure facilities.
Following the meeting SNP Group Leader Gary Coull said: “Our leisure services are valued by the people of Moray and we have duty to protect them as best we can in the challenging circumstances we find ourselves.
“By pushing forward with discussions with other organisations such as neighbouring High Life Highland, who run leisure services in Highland Region, we may be able to find ways of reducing costs without the need to close facilities.
“That doesn’t mean that we won’t have to consider that as well but it may reduce the final impact if the Council takes a positive view of working with external organisations. Everyone understands that budgets are tough and difficult decisions need to be made but the public rightly expects that we will look at all money saving options before we get to the point of cutting services.
“That is the argument we made and I am pleased that it was accepted and a solution reached that everyone was able to back.”
The SNP’s Aaron McLean sits as an opposition member on the Council’s Leisure Review Board. He said: “Having been on the Board for over three years I am pleased that we have moved someway now towards the possibility of our leisure facilities being run by an ALEO, which I believe, at this point, is the best way forward these services in Moray.
“It is our job now to progress this as far a possible to give the new Council in May a decent headstart. Fundamentally the possibility of over 400,000 pounds worth of savings just by managing the service differently cannot be ignored and I believe there is scope for more efficiency beyond that.”