Editorial: Conservative leader at Moray Council – All in this Together

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Today Councillor Tim Eagle, the Leader of the Conservative Group on Moray Council whose eight members form the Administration alongside five Independents, writes directly to our readers ahead of the crunch Budget discussions this afternoon.

A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO the Dundee Evening Telegraph ran an article about Dundee Council calling for budget views. Dundee is an SNP run Council, Moray is an Independent/Conservative run Council. What we share is that we are in the same situation.

The article said this: “Dundee City Council is seeking input from residents, having announced it is trying to cut £20m from its budget next year. Council leader John Alexander said that the cuts are “going to prove a headache” and admits “there will be challenges to provide services.”

It went on to say “that a survey will give residents an opportunity to offer their views”, and that the authority is “eager for feedback in all areas”. The leader, John Alexander, added: “We at the council value that opportunity and we are keen to keep everyone in Dundee completely informed about the budget process.”

That is what I and my Councillor colleagues in the Conservative party also wish to do with you here in Moray. The above shows that all councils are having to look hard and why I and my Councillor colleagues are working closely with officers to share our strengths and skills.

Our determination to turn this all around and make things right for Moray now and in the future is very strong. At 3pm today I will join all other councillors on Moray Council as we head into a full council meeting to discuss the first paper of the budget.

This will be a confidential meeting. That is not because we are trying to hide but because until we have full council approval we cannot go public with our consultation about future budget measures. Assuming the majority vote for the consultation to go ahead, soon after you will be told our thoughts, and be given the opportunity to feed back to us. We will take those views very seriously.

Councillor Tim Eagle

I am not alone in my group to have had sleepless nights over these budget proposals, to have spent many, many hours sitting around the table with fellow administration members, my hands in my face, as I grasp what options we have.

We must balance the budget, it is our legal responsibility – and with so many efficiencies already made over the last 10 years there is little left to choose from. But still we will listen to you. If approved I hope all of you will take the time to respond to the consultation as we explore together the way forward for Moray.

We want your ideas as well about how we can save money in the council or be more efficient in the services we provide. It will be sad, and it will be painful – and some will rally to fight their corner. But it is not the end. We will not shy away from our responsibilities.

As Conservative councillors we are acutely aware that this must be more than about budget cuts, it is also about our strategic plan for Moray. That is why in the background we will also be having discussions on where we want Moray to be. To look at opportunities for us in the future and resourcing the strengths we currently have.

This is only the start, the start of a discussion that with hope, determination and hopefully some stability will allow Moray to turn a corner and become the Council you need it to be.

To do all of this, we need YOU and I hope you really will play a constructive part in our combined future. Our Moray. I am no different to many of you, I have children here in Moray, my home is in Moray, I work in Moray. I don’t want to see it struggle or its people to struggle – all the options put to us in discussions with the senior management team were enormously hard. Please remember this as the talks begin.

There are big days ahead especially on December 14 when the Scottish Government announce their draft budget. My hope is they will see our need and give us the money we need to maintain our services and afford us time to plan our way forward, Moray is a unique and wonderful rural location and we need that to recognised.

Please do feel free to contact me or any of my colleagues with your thoughts and concerns. We were voted in by you, we are here for you.