A stark warning was issued today that Moray Council will face difficult decisions for the foreseeable future as it strives to balance its books.
Councillors were told that although the council had made good progress in achieving savings in recent years, the pace needed to increase.
In an update on the council’s financial position, corporate director Mark Palmer also said that greater community engagement would play a key part in helping councillors and council officers achieve the necessary savings.
Mr Palmer said the council had responded extremely well to reductions in government funding and had achieved budget savings of £24million over the past five years, during which it had not shied away from making tough decisions.
However, he reminded members that the current arrangements for providing council services were not sustainable and councillors and officers needed to work together to identify “all possible options” for reducing costs in the years ahead.
Latest indications are that the council will require to find savings of £6.4million next year and a similar amount in 2017-18.
Speaking at a meeting of the full Moray Council, Mr Palmer (pictured) said it was likely that a “substantial amount” of the council’s financial reserves – which currently stand at £21million – would be required to help balance next year’s budget.
However, he also cautioned that charges for council services may also have to rise.
“For 2015-16 the council agreed a standard 5% increase in charges, with exceptions,” he said.
“Further increases and the introduction of new charges will also need to be considered for all services which are not covered by external regulations.”
Mr Palmer said it was now important for the council to establish plans to engage with communities across Moray to enable decisions to be made to achieve recurring annual budget reductions.
He said previous public budget consultations had tended to be viewed in isolation, but recent work had highlighted the need for more emphasis to be placed on community engagement on an ongoing basis.
Moray Council area stretches from Tomintoul in the south to the shores of the Moray Firth, from Keith in the east to Forres in the west. The council and its 4,500 employees respond to the needs of 92,500 residents in this beautiful part of Scotland, which nestles between Aberdeenshire and the Highlands.
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.
Headquartered in Elgin, the administrative capital of Moray.