Published: 08/02/2014 10:00 - Updated: 07/02/2014 12:24

Moray budget announcement nears

Councillor Allan Wright.
Councillor Allan Wright.

MORAY will find out this week what is in store for the area as the council strives to save another £10 million in its budget.

In a radical move, a cross-party working group is behind the 2014/15 financial plan, to be announced on Tuesday.

It is expected that budget allocations to local authority services will be roughly similar to last year, but a reallocation between departments is anticipated amid changing demand.

The real bite is likely to come later this year when a clear picture will emerge of the outcome of two major reviews.

The local authority is looking at its school estate as well as sport and leisure provision, and recommendations are due to come before the authority within two to three months.

Council leader, Councillor Allan Wright, will present Tuesday’s budget – his seventh – on behalf of the cross-party area-based review group which was established last year in the face of unprecedented financial pressure.

He said: “We are awaiting the outcome and the consequent discussion and consultation on these two very important reviews. These are big spending areas, and because we don’t know the outcome or recommendations yet, and whether they will be accepted or not, it will mean that I will have to earmark something like £2 million from reserves.”

That financial cushion, kept in place to meet sudden unexpected costs, currently sits at about £19 million.

“I would expect that in the course of the year, as a result of the two reviews, I would be able to make a fairly hefty dent, at least, in that £2 million,” said Councillor Wright.

In the autumn of 2012, the council embarked on one of the largest cost-cutting exercises in its history, with the unprecedented requirement to save £30 million. Two-thirds of that has now been achieved, with about £10 million left to be found.

However, the area has suffered a slashing of services across all sectors, with libraries, the arts, and lands and parks among the hardest hit.

Councillor Wright said: “The people of Moray have had to face up to some cuts in services, but the reassurance is that we are winning the battle and we are two thirds of the way there. That has been achieved through a variety of things: firstly, the savings that were already made and are now taking a full-year effect.

“The second part is that there have been, and continue to be, efficiencies made across the council. There have also been extra income streams from the Scottish Government for a variety of their initiatives, which has clearly helped as well.”

It is likely that the local authority will end this financial year without having to touch reserves.

“The bottom line is that budget allocations in total, for the various services, and running the council, will be similar to last year’s.

“But we will be able to earmark around £3 million for budget pressures, as part and parcel of the budget,” said Councillor Wright.

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