Two of the hardest hit in council budget cuts speak out

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APPALLED AND IMPOSSIBLE FINANCE were just two of the headline views this afternoon from organisations badly affected by the Moray Council budget cuts.

The Unison trade union, who represent members who now look set to lose their jobs, had joined a rally outside the council chamber ahead of the meeting this morning.

However, their voices went unheeded as councillors voted 13-11 for a package of cuts that will shave over £6million from the council budget this year – with the promise of more pain in twelve months when cuts of up to £10million are being anticipated.

Unison’s Moray branch secretary Suzanne Wright said: “The cuts agreed by Full Council this morning are not only a devastating blow to our members whose jobs are being cut, but will wreak havoc on already pressured services.

“What this ruling administration has demonstrated today is a complete failure to listen – to the public, to the trade unions, to employees, to opposition councillors – and has pressed ahead with cuts regardless.

“By the failure of this Tory/Independent ruling administration to listen to any alternatives, the people of Moray can be left in no doubt that this administration is pursuing the deeply discredited austerity agenda of the current government in Westminster.

“We are told that this is a ‘thought-out’ budget – this is simply not the case, it is driven purely by a desire to make short-term financial savings regardless of the longer–term detriment to the Council area.

“Today’s decisions will increase pressure and costs on other services – and will have a negative impact on the region for many years to come. Moray Unison will not shy away from holding to account those who voted through these decisions today for the damage they intend to inflict on the Moray community.

“This is without doubt a ruling administration hell bent on a race to the bottom that they are determined to win.”

Health Services facing a Crisis

Meanwhile one of the largest losers in terms of the financial contribution being cut by Moray Council is the Moray Integration Joint Board (MIJB), who say it will now be impossible to maintain their current form in the face of a £1.2million reduction in funding.

Christine Lester, chair of the board, said budget cuts on top of growing demand from an ageing population, high cost care packages and legislative changes are putting unprecedented pressure on the local health and social care system.

She said: “The health and social care services now under the direction of the MIJB touch on the lives of many people across Moray. We as a Board face a very difficult task in meeting our obligation to deliver statutory services within a balanced budget when current level of resource is already less than what is required to meet cost and demand pressures.

“Like all public bodies we continually look to be more efficient and make the best use of taxpayers’ money. We are working on the required system redesign which will help us shift the balance of care from hospital to affordable and sustainable community-based services which improve health and wellbeing outcomes for people, but redesign takes time and investment.”

In its short lifespan the MIJB were delegated responsibilities by Moray Council and NHS Grampian for a range of health and social care functions delivered through the Health and Social Care Moray partnership.

NHS Grampian and Moray Council each determine the level of funding they provide to the integrated board to deliver the services on their behalf. The Board faces dealing with an estimated funding gap of around £5million if it is to set a balanced budget of its own by the end of March.

The board fully appreciates the financial challenges being faced by its funding partners. Tracey Abdy, Chief Financial Officer, reported at the January meeting of the board.
She said: “Work has begun on the identification of further efficiency savings whilst striving to drive the pace of change through service redesign.

“An initial exercise has been completed to determine potential areas for consideration and the senior management team is in the process of developing options that will be presented to the Board as part of the budget setting process.”

The budget will be presented to the board on March 29.