Lochhead final plea on Council cuts includes ‘four point plan’

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PRESSURE IS BEING MOUNTED on the ruling administration group at Moray Council with local MSP Richard Lochhead leading the way by outlining what he calls a ‘four-point plan’.

The Conservative and Independent administration have tabled a budget that is aimed at saving over £6million and which will be considered at a meeting of the full council tomorrow (Wednesday).

Now Mr Lochhead and his SNP colleagues on the council are underlining their alternative proposals – which revolve around the additional £4million budget allocation from the Scottish Government, call for withdrawal of around £1million in the administration proposals but make no hard and fast alternative cuts to make up the difference.

The four-point plan released today by Mr Lochhead is:

  • Moray Council should use some of the additional £4m funding from the Scottish Government to drop £1m of cuts to education
  • Administration Councillors must start campaigning for COLSA to reopen discussions on the funding formula to get a better deal for Moray
  • Richard Lochhead MSP will take a delegation from the Moray Council to meet with Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Derek Mackay MSP to discuss the Council’s long-term finances
  • Moray Council should set up a taskforce to work with front line staff to identify potential long-term savings whilst protecting jobs

The MSP said: “The SNP Government has delivered Moray over £4 million more than expected so the case for revisiting the proposed cuts is cast iron and using £1m of this extra funding would allow much of the damaging cuts including those affecting our schools to be binned. I urge Moray Tories and their Independent colleagues to do the right thing for Moray’s children and schools.

“As the local MSP, I am offering to take a delegation from the Council to meet the Cabinet Secretary of Finance Derek Mackay, something that he has agreed to, but for their part the Tories and Independents must agree to start banging the table at local government body COSLA – to persuade the other councils to review the local government funding formula to achieve a better settlement for Moray.

“Education must be protected given that our schools and staff are already coping with many serious pressures. It’s also vitally important to ensure Moray is seen as an attractive place to live and work and given that all politicians of whatever colour are supposed to believe closing the attainment gap is a top priority for education then these cuts need to be dropped.”

Councillor Shona Morrison, Co-Leader of the SNP Council Group said: “With an additional £4m coming to the Moray Council from the Scottish Government, the Tory administration has been handed an opportunity to protect education and drop plans to make £1m of cuts to our local schools and education support.

“It’s astonishing that the Tory led Council is going ahead with these counterproductive cuts to education at a time when we’re struggling to recruit teachers to the area.

“There’s been a real lack of imagination and long term thinking from the Council’s administration and instead of simply going ahead with this slash and burn policy, I would urge the Councillors to support this plan.”

Local union leaders have also bee adding their voice to the protests over proposed job losses that include compulsory redundancies.

Liz Gordon, GMB Highland Officer added: “Moray Councillors are throwing the lifeline back and condemning the children of Moray to a lesser education than need be the case.

“It is shocking how little regard they have for the communities that elected them into these well-funded elected posts. Richard Lochhead’s plan addresses the need for sound financial governance now – and moving the Council into a more secure future in the long term. Party politics should come second to good decision making.”

Suzanne Wright of Moray Unison said: “Based on the limited information available at this stage, Moray UNISON is supportive of the initiative being put forward by the SNP in respect of the budget issues currently facing Moray Council.

“Moray Unison has already expressed its disappointment that the ruling administration has not reconsidered the amount of cuts it is proposing for 2018-19 in light of the increase funding available from the Scottish Government.

“Similarly, we would also welcome the opening of discussions with COSLA and with Holyrood to discuss the position Moray Council is in and assess what can be done in the longer term.

“The suggestion of the setting up of a taskforce which would involve frontline staff is one which Unison would welcome in principle, however this must be meaningful engagement of the workforce and cannot be a “lip service” exercise. Based on what we know we would be keen to encourage participation in such a forum and look forward to hearing more about this initiative.

“Whilst acknowledging education is undoubtedly facing the biggest cuts as far as the current budget proposals are concerned, Moray Unison is concerned with, and involved in, preventing job losses across the whole Council estate and will continue to fight for its members jobs across all Council departments.”