Conservative council group leader responds to SNP MSP criticism

Following criticism from Moray’s MSP Richard Lochhead over Council Budget plans to cut back on the number of school libraries in Moray, the Leader of the Conservative Group and chairman of the Children and Young People’s Services Committee, Tim Eagle, penned the following response for insideMORAY.

Council are facing a financial crisis.

It saddens me that Richard Lochhead MSP feels the need to attack a group of councillors, themselves local people, who are trying so hard to move Moray Council forward despite the crippling cuts to the overall council budget.

The new administration has already spent time discussing our absolute commitment to education and our desire to aim for excellence.

Not a single cut in the budget proposals was an easy decision. One of the options put to us was a small cut in the devolved school management budget which covers all areas of school management including the library service and technicians.

I have personally had communication with Librarians and Technicians and have ensured I put across the complexity of the situation that Moray faces. The consultation was to allow the public to see just what the cuts mean for Moray – and I am delighted that so many members of the public responded to us. We will be taking all these views into consideration as we focus in on the final budget.

Mr Lochhead seems to suggest that there is £2million extra for Moray suddenly which we should use to save on some cuts. This cannot be further from the truth.

Councillor Tim Eagle – MSP should help Moray by seeking more Government help

Even the Scottish Parliament’s own information centre (SPICe) produced a report showing the gravity of the situation facing councils and the severe underfunding Moray Council receives.

We expected another cut of 3% this year. As it turns out it was 1.6% – but this is still a cut and this is on top of years of cuts. Just to be absolutely clear on this – the increase in the budget for Moray Council between 2010/11 and 2018/19 has been £928,000, this includes £11,832,000 of funded growth. That is additional responsibilities we have to provide but for which the Scottish Government have given us money towards.

But, and it is a big but, we have has £36,120,000 of additional responsibilities that have not been funded, meaning an overall budget decrease since 2010/11 of £47,024,000. We are looking to implement cuts of £6.5million this year, which will still see us needing to use millions in reserves and based on a standstill grant for 2019/20 we have to make cuts of over £18million next year to stay solvent.

The SPICe report says it all, Moray gets £1599 per head of population yet authorities similar to us get around £1850 per head. Given our rurality, the amount of roads we have and our location why are we not being funded.

Take the extra £250 per head and times it over the 93,000 population and that is a whopping £23,250,000 we miss out on!

If Richard Lochhead wants to help Moray perhaps rather than slating the hard-working council administration who are genuinely trying to make Moray better he might go back to his own government and ask for more money for Moray!

See also https://www.insidemoray.com/pressure-mounts-on-moray-council-to-halt-school-library-plans/

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