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Minister in 'productive' talks at council HQ

By Lorna Thompson

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MORAY councillors hailed a meeting with Scotland's Finance Secretary this week as "productive".

Moray Council leader Cllr Graham Leadbitter and convener Cllr Shona Morrison made the case for more Scottish Government cash when they met Derek Mackay on Tuesday.

The meeting took place at Moray Council’s HQ and covered a range of local economic development and budget issues as the cash-strapped local authority's cuts bite into public services.

The talks, attended by local and national officials, are part of ongoing dialogue between the council and government.

Mr Leadbitter said afterwards: "In Moray we have some amazing economic successes to celebrate and rapid growth in particular areas – including the major and welcome expansion of the role of RAF Lossiemouth.

"That cause for celebration also, in some respects, presents a challenge to ensure our infrastructure and services keep up with demand and that we can support continuing inward investment and growth.

"We need to achieve both of those aims and it is vital that we have a strong and ongoing relationship and dialogue with all levels of government and other public sector partners.

Finance Secretary Derek Mackay was in Elgin this week as part of ongoing talks with Moray Council.
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay was in Elgin this week as part of ongoing talks with Moray Council.

"Many of the budgeting issues that we face have to be dealt with either locally or through Cosla where the funding formula is worked on by all of Scotland’s councils and that is also a continuing job of work, but there are also other issues particular to Moray that are not easily addressed by the formula and we are exploring those issues with the Scottish Government.

"As people live longer and pressure increases on health and social care there will continue to be challenging decisions to ensure that vital care is provided to those who need it.

"An equally important priority is ensuring that our young people receive a high standard of education from early years through to higher and further education.

"These issues are the major focus of this council administration – and we will work to achieve a sustainable budget position that maintains that focus."

Moray Conservatives had pressed councillors to "tell the man who controls the Scottish Government’s purse strings some home truths about the real impact of SNP cuts to Moray". They said afterwards the meeting was a wasted opportunity.

Highlands and Islands Conservative MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said: "Financial cuts have meant Moray has lost vital public services – services that the local community rightly expects to be delivered as part of the normal work of their council.

"Local residents in the county need some hope that the years of unfair financial settlements from Edinburgh are coming to an end."

Mr Leadbitter said Mr Halcro Johnston had "voted for less" when he supported the reduced Scottish Government budget.

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