Schools and libraries hit in council cuts

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Chief executive Roddy Burns
"...significant challenge for the council" – Chief Executive Roddy Burns

Schools, sports facilities and libraries have been dealt a blow in the council’s bid to meet its budget for 2019/20.

A range of measures that will help the council balance its budget for the coming year were debated by councillors yesterday.

Measures include the increasing of class sizes, closure of six libraries, removal of Active Schools and Essential Skills programmes, removal of school crossing patrols and the introduction of car parking charges.

The measures will reduce the council’s budget deficit by approximately £2m, with work continuing over the coming month to find another £5m to reach a balanced budget position on 27 February.

Subject to consultation with the staff affected, the measures are expected to lead to a reduction of over 110 posts across a range of services as the Council’s responsibilities and priorities go through a major period of change.

Full details of all proposed measures are available on the Moray Council website.

Speaking after the meeting, Chief Executive of Moray Council, Roddy Burns, said: “This is the latest phase of a planned approach to the council’s budget.

“Final decisions on these and other service reductions will be made when the council sets its budget on February 27, after consultation with staff affected. Like many other councils in Scotland, Moray Council has to find significant savings in order to fulfil our legal obligation and set a balanced budget. In our case we have to reduce our £214 million annual spend by £14.8 million for the coming financial year.

“Previously approved savings of £5.9 million and a Health and Social Care increase of £1.4 million – funded through the local government settlement from the Scottish Government -leaves a balance of £7.4 million savings to be found. If approved, the savings proposed in this report will reduce that outstanding total.

“There should be no doubt that most of the proposals are made on purely financial grounds.

“In the main, they are not efficiency savings and do not represent levels of service that would be ordinarily suggested.

“However, finding these savings in addition to the £9.7 million already agreed and proposed will be a significant challenge for the council.”

The Leader of Moray Council, Cllr Graham Leadbitter, wrote to Finance Minister Derek Mackay at the start of the year setting out Moray’s financial position.

Areas where efficiencies, service reductions and increased charges proposed include (Many of these still require consultation with workforce and some are subject to further consideration of the equalities impacts and mitigating actions with service users):

  • Increase class sizes threshold to a maximum of 30 pupils in Primary 2 and Primary 3.
  • Reduction in secondary devolved school management budget.
  • Any uncommitted devolved school management budget as of today’s date will be allocated to general reserves fund.
  • Increase charges at Elgin Community Centre and revise staffing structure. Review in four months to see if savings are emerging.
  • Close Auchernack and relocate staff and services to Forres House Community Centre. Revise staffing structure at Forres House.
  • Close Keith and Lossiemouth swimming pools unless FitLife memberships exceed current targets by February 2019 budget meeting.
  • Remove the Active Schools and Sports Development programmes in all schools.
  • Close libraries in Burghead, Cullen, Dufftown, Fochabers, Lossiemouth and Tomintoul. Reduce library opening hours in Buckie, Forres and Keith. Reduce book, audio-visual, reference books and online resources budgets. Reduce library and learning centre staffing.
  • Remove Essential Skills service which provides free learning in reading, writing and numbers to adult learners in Moray.
  • Pursue different model of delivery for ESOL service which provides support to Moray residents who don’t have English as their first language, to learn or improve their reading and writing, listening and speaking skills.
  • Increase charges for musical instruction in schools to £699 per pupil, per year, for individual tuition and £490 per pupil, per year, for group tuition. Existing exclusions for SQA music students and those in receipt of free school meals will remain in place.
  • Close all remaining public toilets and promote comfort scheme.
  • Reduce street sweeping.
  • Close Gollachy recycling centre in Buckie – earliest April 2020.
  • Introduce additional interment charge (burial fee) for non-Moray residents aged 18 years and above, from 1 April 2019.
  • Stop maintaining open grounds space on sites owned by non-profit organisations.
  • Stop maintaining open grounds space on the following sites where the owners are unknown: High Street (Buckie), Seatown Road (Lossiemouth), Fife Street (Dufftown), Green Street Area (Rothes), Hendry’s Green (Findhorn), Meikle Crook (Forres), Redcraig (Mundole), Woodlands Crescent (Elgin), West Street (Fochabers), Station Road (Garmouth), Station Road (Portgordon), West Road verge (Dallas), Garmouth golf course entrance, Steinbeck Road (Buckie), Redstone Play Area (Darnaway), village green (Tomnavoulin), Cliff Terrace  (Findochty), East and West Beach (Hopeman), Auld Bridge (Keith), tennis court area (Craigellachie).
  • Reduce the frequency of grass cutting in housing areas and open amenity ground (not cemeteries). A strip of grass will be cut adjacent to path/pavement edges.
  • Remove P1d routes from Priority 1 network. This will reduce the Priority 1 network for winter maintenance (including gritting) by 60km across 80 roads.
  • Increase harbour fees for recreational vessels at Portknockie, Hopeman, Findochty, Cullen and Burghead by 10 per cent.
  • Remove all remaining school crossing patroller provision.
  • Introduce parking charges at additional locations Moray-wide.
  • Introduce a charge for school transport from the start of the 2019/20 academic year for those not entitled to statutory school transport. Cost per pupil £370 per academic year.
  • Reduction in Community Safety service including the removal of one community warden.

Full details: http://www.moray.gov.uk/moray_standard/page_119975.html