WITH large cutbacks expected at tomorrow morning’s meeting of Moray Council the SNP has put forward its own financial plan.
MSP Richard Lochhead and his SNP councillor colleagues are proposing four points.
These are as follows:
"1. Moray Council should use some of the additional £4million funding from the Scottish Government to drop £1million of cuts to education.
"2. Administration councillors must start campaigning for COSLA to reopen discussions on the funding formula to get a better deal for Moray.
"3. 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.
"4. Moray Council should set up a taskforce to work with frontline staff to identify potential long-term savings whilst protecting jobs."
Mr Lochhead said he had written a letter to George Alexander, the leader of Moray Council, urging him to back these proposals.
The MSP added: "The SNP Government has delivered Moray over £4million more than expected.
"So the case for revisiting the proposed cuts is cast iron. Using £1million of this extra funding would allow many 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. 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."
Cllr Shona Morrison, co-leader of the SNP Council Group also backed the four-point plan.
She said: "With an additional £4million 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 £1million 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.
"Instead of simply going ahead with this slash and burn policy, I would urge the councillors to support this plan."
Amid talk that 45 compulsory redundancies are expected amongst council staff, local union representatives are planning an early morning demonstration from 8am at Moray Council’s headquarters on Elgin High Street.
Liz Gordon, the GMB’s Highland officer, said: "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 increased 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."