Further pressure heaped on Council leaders from Union and SNP

TRADE UNION REPRESENTATIVES for staff employed at Moray Council have been speaking out over the threat of redundancies as part of cuts in the Moray Council budget.

The Moray representative for UNISON last night issued a statement after being approached by members who are concerned over the open letter issued by the Leader of Moray Council, George Alexander, on Tuesday.

That followed comments attributed to Councillor Walter Wilson, who quit the council administration group and Moray Conservative party on Monday. Councillor Wilson had indicated his concern at the level of cuts being proposed by his former colleagues, revealing that services such as Libraries, Community Centres and School Crossing attendants were under threat.

Councillor Alexander sought to reassure Council staff that they would be fully consulted and that no decisions had been made – however, UNISON’s Moray branch secretary, Suzanne Wright, hit back at the suggestion redundancies were even being considered.

She said: “It is deeply troubling to hear once again Councillor Alexander talking about staff redundancies.

“As UNISON has previously made clear, making staff redundant is a short-sighted policy which will only ensure there is less money circulating in the Moray Council area – and lead to increased levels of hardship for many.

“It would as well lead to increased levels of stress and sickness absence for those employees left to continue to deliver services in what are already struggling public services. Any attempt to force job cuts on our members will be resisted.”

Ms Wright added that they agreed with Councillor Alexander that service cuts were down to decisions made at national government level, but added: “However, he and the Moray Tory/Independent administration are not helpless bystanders.

“Many members of the administration are part of a Conservative Party which has shown very clearly it is ideologically opposed to well-funded public services.

“If Councillor Alexander is genuine in his desire to avoid service cuts and job losses then we would urge him and his colleagues to contact the Westminster government and make clear that underfunding of public services cannot continue and urge the Tory Party to reflect on their spending priorities.”

SNP Councillors React

Graham Leadbitter

Also last night opposition SNP councillors also reacted to the resignation of Councillor Wilson, honing in on his reported comment that some of his former Tory colleagues had been acting like “right wing extremists”.

Co-Leader of the SNP Opposition group, Councillor Graham Leadbitter, said: “It has been clear from the earliest days of this Tory/Independent Administration in Moray that there have been tensions, not just between the Tories and Independents but within the Tory group.

“Given the views expressed by some of the Conservatives I am not surprised that Cllr Wilson has found the situation unacceptable. We have seen no major budget proposals to date, nothing that would help move things forward and it is abundantly clear that the group is riven with infighting and indecision.

“This has been the hallmark of Conservative/Independent Coalitions in the last few years in Moray and despite constructive proposals from the SNP they have failed to take the actions that would have seen Moray in a better financial position.”

Councillor Morrison – joint SNP leader

SNP co-leader Councillor Shona Morrison added: “The SNP has a record of making solid proposals – including management re-organisation and income generation that could have been implemented years ago – and which could already be saving the Council millions but Independent/Tory coalitions have repeatedly failed to act and are now casting blame around rather than providing leadership.

“The resignation of Councillor Wilson exposes the deep divisions that exist in the Council’s Administration.

“Conservatives have been calling for Councillor Wilson’s resignation but they have not called for Councillor Allan’s resignation or their former Councillor and now MP Douglas Ross’ resignation, despite the fact that both of those individuals resigned from previous Tory/Independent Administrations.

“This is just hypocrisy and more diversion away from the fact that they are failing to act. The SNP set out serious proposals in our manifesto and I can say wholeheartedly that we would already be implementing them by now.”

Meanwhile SNP Councillor Louise Laing, who shares the Speyside Glenlivet Council Ward with Councillor Wilson, said: “As a councillor sharing a ward with Councillor Wilson I have been aware for some time that he hasn’t been entirely happy in the Tory group.

“I have personally found him easy to work with and I am sure that his accountancy expertise will be a significant loss to the Council’s Administration. It is a shame that their extreme views have driven a more pragmatic councillor out and I wish him well as an Independent we will continue to work with him where we can find shared agreement.”