A senior Tory councillor who broke ranks from his party and quit in protest over secret plans to axe vital services has been accused of spreading “fear and alarm”.
Walter Wilson branded his Conservative colleagues “right-wing extremists” as he resigned from Moray Council’s ruling administration group following a dispute over the proposals, which include scrapping school patrollers and public toilets.
The Speyside Glenlivet councillor – who chaired the planning committee – said he could not condone his colleagues’ “slash and burn” approach to savings.
While Mr Wilson did not reveal the full extent of the administration’s plans to the Press and Journal – which also included mothballing every community centre in Moray and every library outwith Elgin – his resignation prompted a robust response from his party stablemates.
In an open letter published on the authority’s website, council leader George Alexander apologised for Mr Wilson’s comments, which he claimed had caused “fear and alarm” among staff and the public.
He wrote: “I find it most disturbing to have to lead the council during a time of such severe financial difficulties; no councillor enjoys having to make reductions in service.
“These service cuts are forced upon us by national governments and they are certainly not the fault of the people of Moray.
“Within the constraints we are facing we will do everything we can to protect jobs and services.
“I apologise for the alarm caused by Councillor Wilson’s words, over which I had no control.”
Last night, the now independent strenuously denied he had leaked the specifics of the administration’s proposed cuts.
He added: “My position is such that I understand cuts have to be made, but these should not be disproportionate to any single area but equally shared and carried out in a fair manner.”
Meanwhile, Mr Wilson’s opposition was shared by union bosses who promised to resist any redundancies.
Suzanne Wright, Unison’s branch secretary for Moray, said: “As Unison has previously made clear, making staff redundant is a short-sighted policy which will only ensure there is less money circulating in the Moray Council area and lead to increased levels of hardship for many, as well as increased levels of stress and sickness absence for those employees left to continue to deliver services in what are already struggling public services. Any attempt to force job cuts on our members will be resisted.”