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Warning of more cuts to come as council agrees budget

Date Added - 13/02/13

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People living in Moray were warned today to expect further cuts in services and the loss of more facilities as the council looks to achieve £30million in budget savings over the next three years.

Council leader Councillor Allan Wright said that savings being implemented in the year ahead were “but a start” and that “more radical proposals” were being lined up by the council’s administration.

Councillors today approved a raft of measures which will shave £7million from the budget for 2013-14 and which will see the removal of subsidised bus services, the closure of seven libraries, the removal of support for arts development  and a one-year reduction in roads maintenance.

Councillor Wright said that in response to opposition from parents  the administration had reconsidered its proposals for classroom assistants in schools, which in some cases would have left schools with no classroom assistants.

The revised proposals will now see all schools having a minimum of 12.5 hours of classroom assistant cover per week.

Councillor Wright said the budget decisions reflected to a great extent feedback from the public during a three-month period of consultation which he described as “hugely worthwhile”.

“It has undoubtedly achieved a real understanding by the public of the financial challenge we face,” he said.

“And it has provided some pretty clear guidance on where the axe might fall and where it should be spared. Throughout the exercise, we gave a solemn undertaking that the views we garnered would be reflected in our budget decisions – and they have been.”

Councillor Wright said the past three months had also allowed the administration to develop a further list of more radical proposals that merited further and early detailed consideration.

“In the interests of transparency, the budget papers include a list of those proposals,” he said.

“Top of that list in potential savings terms is the school estate and there is no point in ducking the issue. We have too many schools for the number of pupils and that  includes secondary schools.

“The review of the school estate is overdue and it will be started as soon as possible under the guidance of the area-based review which cross-party members have been working on.

“The same area-based review will be used to consider the future of all our leisure facilities. Library closures are included in the budget before you today. That may not be the end of reductions in that sector.”

He said longer-term budget savings included the establishment of a single trust for all leisure facilities, adding: “”I do not believe the council can continue to sustain all the leisure facilities we currently enjoy.”

Councillor Wright said the removal of subsidies of bus services – amounting to a saving of £320,000 in a full year – should not be seen as a straight cut but as a change of the way public transport was delivered, especially in rural areas.

He explained: “That is why we have increased the budget for dial-a-bus services by £70,000 because we are convinced that it is a sustainable way forward and ties in with improved, demand-dictated transport arrangements for health appointments.”

Councillor Wright said that just over a year ago he had announced a 10-year capital plan that was the most ambitious ever for the council and that much of the required borrowing was to be funded from council reserves.

He said the continuing revenue all on those reserves would have an effect and the administration would be coming forward with a revised long-term capital plan before the summer recess.

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