Moray Council’s administration plans to raise charges across the board and slash spending on gritting icy roads to help make ends meet.
The ruling Independent-Conservative coalition has revealed its budget for the forthcoming financial year – and it features a series of contentious moves aimed at saving £12million.
They include recouping almost £60,000 by reducing the number of roads treated during winter, and imposing a 5% increase on almost all council rates.
Leading councillors, who last year launched a doomed bid to increase council tax by 18%, will raise the levy by the maximum 3% allowed this year to rake in an extra £1.1million.
Flood protection schemes at Hopeman and Portessie have also been dropped from the council’s 10-year plan, to save a combined £4.2million.
The authority’s SNP opposition group has criticised the administration’s approach, claiming it shows a “lack of leadership”.
The Nationalists believe more could be saved by working alongside neighbouring authorities, and say huge sums could be saved by juggling senior positions.
But Moray Council leader Stewart Cree last night insisted making cuts was the only way to spare the local authority from bankruptcy.
He added: “We are not getting the money we need from the government to maintain these services, it’s as simple as that.”
Papers submitted to elected members offered a bleak insight into the council’s accounts, and warned that there was unlikely to be any respite in sight.
Head of financial services, Margaret Wilson, said: “The council’s revenue budget is unsustainable, even in the short term.
“We are in a period of reduced funding from central government at a UK and Scottish level, and that is forecast to continue for another three years at least.”
More than £7million will be siphoned from reserves to fill the budget gap, along with the savings made through cuts.
The administration has suggested trimming £60,000 from its winter roads maintenance spending.
Ruling members believe the number of “priority routes” should be reduced from the current 18.
Under the revisions, any roads without schools or used by school transport, on public bus routes or featuring bases for emergency services would be downgraded.
The 5% rise in all charges is expected to net the authority an extra £266,000 and follows a 20% increase on the price of some services last year.
Youngsters taking music lessons will now pay 25% more than during 2015-16, despite fears the change might deter parents from sending their children to classes.
A 5% increase in the cost of school meals will mean parents paying an extra 10p per day.
And new rates for the hire of town halls and community centres have been drawn-up.
The council tax rise will mean people in Band E properties pay £100 more every year, with those in Band H homes facing a £510 increase.
Councillors will meet on Wednesday to set the budget for the forthcoming financial year
SNP group leader Gary Coull said a “more strategic” approach was required to resolve the financial crisis, and plans to call for a string of changes during the meeting next week.
He claims his proposals, which include slashing £500,000 from the wages of senior staff, will help save another £1million.
Councillor Coull said: “The fundamental way to fix Moray Council’s budget problems is to vigorously pursue shared services with neighbouring authorities such as Highland and Aberdeenshire.
“A senior management restructure could save £500,000, which we believe is a very achievable target.”
Council convener Allan Wright last night dismissed the SNP’s alternative budget, saying it “simply relies on populous amendments” to the administration’s financial plan.