Wednesday, 20 February 2013

SNP Seeks Answers on Tory/Independent Budget Strategy


SNP Councillors and Moray’s MP and MSP are taking forward the deep concerns of Moray’s communities following last week’s ‘outrageous’ budget from Independent and Tory Councillors.

SNP Councillors have called on Independent and Tory Councillors - the majority of whom have been in the Council’s administration for most of the last 6 years - to make clear the extent of their efforts to share services with other authorities and to take forward leisure trust proposals.

The SNP says the Independents and Tories have paid lip service to these key structural measures over recent years but have manifestly failed to act on them.

Tory Leader Ruth Davidson has also been attacked by Richard Lochhead MSP, who said she clearly had little knowledge of Moray on her recent visit where she claimed that the closure of libraries was mitigated by extending the mobile library service.

Something that is impossible when the mobile library service has been reduced to a single vehicle by successive Tory led budgets in Moray since 2007

SNP Opposition Leader Councillor Pearl Paul said:

Ward 1
Speyside Glenlivet
“What we saw last week was an outrageous budget from Independent and Tory Councillors that was cobbled together at the last minute when they realised the strength of the storm of protest from Moray’s communities.

“The SNP has encouraged the Administration to take forward a shared services agenda and from our own discussions with councillors in other authorities we know there is a willingness to do that. Most of the Independent and Tory Councillors in Moray have spent several years in the Council’s Administration and the very obvious question that they have failed to answer in any meaningful way, is what have they done to seriously take shared services forward and reduce the impact of cuts on frontline services?

“Instead we have seen a host of frontline service cuts ahead of structural changes - that is very clearly putting the cart before the horse."

Commenting on ill-informed comments by Tory Leader Ruth Davidson Cllr Paul continued:

“The Tory Leader breezed into Moray last Friday just two days after her own councillors in Moray announced the closure of seven libraries, the removal of large numbers of classroom assistants, major cuts to public transport and the wiping out of the arts budget.

“Having arrived in Moray the she then proceeded to claim - completely wrongly - that the SNP’s concern over library closures ignored ‘increased mobile library provision’. Clearly the Tories need to go back to school if they think that halving mobile libraries from 2 to 1 to cover the whole of Moray is in any way, whatsoever, an ‘increased’ provision.

“The SNP asked on budget day what the strategic thinking was behind these cuts and there has been no answer to that - almost certainly because there is no strategic thinking.”

Commenting on the response from Moray communities to the budget Richard Lochhead MSP said:

“I have been inundated with concerns from constituents aghast at the Council's botched budget that has made Moray a laughing stock throughout the country and got us in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

“They are dismantling Moray's cultural fabric by closing libraries and wiping out in one swipe the whole arts budget.

“The out of touch Independent and Tory Councillors have targeted front line services and not dealt with structural change to find alternative savings, something they even admitted during the budget debate.

“I am seeking a meeting with Council Administration representatives to get across to them the issues that have been raised with me by many constituents and to urge them to review their flawed decision.”

Moray’s MP Angus Robertson says SNP representatives will be meeting with people across Moray to see what can be salvaged from the situation.

Angus Robertson MP said:

“SNP Councillors, Richard Lochhead MSP and I are seeking meetings with representatives of various community interests across Moray.

“The reputational damage to Moray from these crass decisions from the Independents and Tories has already gone far beyond Moray’s borders and I have personally been contacted by several prominent figures outside Moray who are incredulous at the decisions that have been made.

“The SNP at both Scottish Government and at a local level have been pushing hard for Councils to take forward major structural changes such as shared services but there is little evidence of action on this from Moray’s Tory Leader who has now presented his sixth budget in Moray with backing of Independent Councillors.

“What is the thought process that got them to this point? Frankly communities in Moray just cannot understand why they have chosen cuts in the areas that they have.”
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