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Moray Council yesterday agreed cost-cutting measures of over £5M in a bid to balance the 2019/20 budget.
Despite saving £43million over the last 10 years, Moray Council is predicting a £12million shortfall in income in the next financial year and will need to spend £4.8million from reserves during 2019/20 to meet spending requirements.
Yesterday councillors gave the green light to progress more than £5million of savings for next year, which could potentially see up to 136 job losses. A number of savings proposals will be consulted on before a final decision is taken by councillors.
Many internal savings will be implemented immediately including reducing fuel costs, reducing operational budgets, and making more of online services. Others, including introducing a charge for the collection of garden waste, changing the opening hours of recycling centres and increased commercialisation of the council’s leisure service, will take place during 2019/20.
Engagement with the public and community groups will take place to influence how a number of savings are taken forward; this includes reducing the opening hours at council Access Points, reducing the street sweeping service, closing Elgin Community Centre and reducing library opening hours.
Speaking after the meeting, Council Leader Graham Leadbitter said: “This is, without doubt, the most challenging budget that the Council has faced in many, many years.
“When the SNP Council Group took over the Council Administration in June, we knew exactly what we were taking on. However, none of us stood for Council expecting an easy ride and we are not shying away from the responsibility that we have to balance the Council’s books.
“In the short term that has meant some very difficult decisions to produce the interim budget plan that we presented to the Council this week. We know that having to cut this amount from the budget has an impact on jobs and an impact on the services that the people of Moray receive but it would be much worse if we allowed the Council’s finances to continue to deteriorate.
“In considering the savings that we have to make we have done it with the aim of protecting preventative spend as far as possible and protecting as many facilities as we could, such as keeping swimming pools and libraries open.
“We know that to close these facilities would mean they would be highly unlikely to re-open and that is a step we are not prepared to take if we can possibly avoid it.
“In our manifesto we committed to protecting education, making reductions in management and having no compulsory redundancies. We remain committed to those aims. We have time to work to prevent compulsory redundancies and we will do all that we can before December.
“We are determined over the next two years to get the Council on an even keel. This week is the first step and possibly the toughest. Alongside these actions, we are working with the Council’s management team on a range of transformation projects that will bring a much more sustainable approach to the Council’s future budget process. We are looking to redesign and re-shape services to reflect the changing demand and increasing population that we have in Moray, which is especially the case with a growing number of service and civilian personnel at Lossiemouth and Kinloss.
“In addition to this work we are also lobbying at national level through COSLA and directly with Scottish Government Ministers in a bid to improve the financial situation for the Council and to help us get through this difficult stage. We want to bring the focus back to the positive contribution to Moray that our Council staff, and the services they deliver, have each and every day.
“In spite of the budget pressures that we have, the Council invests nearly quarter of a billion pounds every year in public service provision in Moray and we should never lose sight of the difference that those services make to the more than 90,000 people across the region.”