MORAY Council has today set its budget for 2018/19 to secure more than £6.2 million of savings.
At today’s full council meeting proposals to cut spending on Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service, and Social, Emotional and Behavioural Needs were withdrawn by the Administration Group in response to the public consultation. Home School Link Workers will remain, although three current vacancies within the service will not be filled in order to save £65,000.
Among the other decisions taken was the closure or Community Asset Transfer of town halls and community centres across Moray, a move to three-weekly collection of green bins, reduction of public toilet provision and a £1.2 million reduction in funding for Health & Social Care Moray.
For the financial year 2018/19, the roads maintenance budget will be reduced by £500,000, £30,000 funding for the Citizens Advice Bureau will be withdrawn and a management restructure will save £500,000.
Moray Council will also introduce ways to generate more income, including scrapping the 10 per cent Council Tax discount for those with a second home in Moray, and levying charges for the collection of white goods for disposal. Council Tax will rise by three per cent to raise an additional £1.2 million.
More than £4 million from Moray Council’s reserves will be used to balance the 2018/19 budget.
Council Leader, George Alexander, said for many years Moray Council has been asked to deliver services with ever-tightening finances and ever-increasing demand.
“No councillor wants to make reductions in services but we must balance the budget. I passionately believe that we are doing the best thing. We will do our utmost to make sure the effects of these cuts will be as low as possible.
“We have been listening to the public. Because we have been listening, we still provide services such as public toilets, school crossing patrollers and school librarians, none of which are statutory requirements.”
He said that with the real term reduction in spending forecast to continue for at least another three years, preparation is key.
“Savings become harder and harder to find and take much longer to deliver. We need to prepare the people of Moray for some difficult changes the council must make, in order for it to be able to continue to deliver essential and sustainable services. We are all committed to the future of Moray but that future is extremely challenging for Moray Council.
“There are many exciting developments already under way in Moray and we must take full advantage of those and other opportunities as they develop. In order to do so, we must have a council which is financially sustainable and which delivers high quality services.”
Cllr Tim Eagle, leader of the Conservative group within Moray Council, said that openness and transparency had been at the heart of the public consultation and budget setting process, and that listening to the public had been pivotal in reversing the decision to cut CAHMS funding.
He said: “This is not a ‘slash-and-burn’ budget, this is a thought-out budget from an Administration Group which is optimistic about the future of Moray."
Cllr Tim Eagle seconded the proposed budget, which was carried by 13 votes to 11, with Cllr Wilson abstaining from the vote.
Famous for its colony of dolphins, fabulous beaches and more malt whisky distilleries than any where else in Scotland, Moray is a thriving area and a great place to live. Nestling between Aberdeenshire and the Highlands, Moray stretches from Tomintoul in the south to the shores of the Moray Firth, from Keith in the east to Brodie Castle in the west.