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16.01.19

Moray Council ‘could be the first’ in Scotland to declare bankruptcy

Fears of bankruptcy and government commissioners “are growing louder” at Moray Council as the authority struggles to find ways to cut a further £8.1m from next year’s budget.

Money-saving measures already agreed by the council could see 140 jobs lost, services stripped back, and buildings closed in order to fight a £12m budget deficit as the council dips into its reserves and the authority is forecasted to enter bankruptcy in September 2019.

And last night, the 7.1% cut to the council following the Scottish Government’s financial settlement announcement was described as a “reality check” and “a kick in the crotch” to the attempt to stave off bankruptcy by senior figures.

Talks took place between group leaders in the chambers as they examined the progress on budget proposals and, as reported by the Press and Journal, some councillors expressed their fears that a balanced budget may be beyond reach.

Conservative group leader Tim Eagle stated: “Budget drafts are being pored over by senior officers and administration councillors just now. I don’t know what they say, but whispers in the corridors are growing louder.

“Could Moray be the first council in Scotland to put their hands in the air, phone the Scottish Government and say no, we cannot do this?

“If we did it would mean the appointment of Holyrood-appointed commissioners and the end of local democracy with an axe taken to services so many in our communities rely on.”

Moray Council’s leader Graham Leadbitter admitted there was still “a lot of work to be done” before the authority could declare a balanced budget for 2019-20, despite over £43m worth of savings being made over the last decade.

He said: “This is the most challenging decision that has faced the council and has brought with it unique challenges.

“But there is still more than a month to go before the deadline of 27 February. At this stage it would wrong to speculate on what the outcome of all that work and ongoing discussions will be.”

Reserves at the council are reportedly nearly gone and former leader and head of the Open Group, George Alexander, said the council could just cut back to just the services it’s legally obliged to provide, but this “would make life unbearable.”

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