Nearly 140 jobs are at risk after Moray Council revealed its plans to stave off potential bankruptcy.
Elgin Community Centre could be closed, opening hours of libraries and recycling centres reduced and fees for leisure centres increased in a desperate attempt to plug the financial blackhole.
Current projections show the local authority currently has a £19million budget deficit, and must find £12million of savings by February.
At a private meeting this week, councillors agreed to progress with more than £5million of savings for the next year.
- – Introduce annual £36 charge for collection of garden waste – £690,000
- – Increase burial fees to Scottish average – £26,000
- – Changes to opening times at recycling centres – £20,000
- – Increased commercialisation of leisure service – £217,000
- For consultation
- – Close or transfer Elgin Community Centre to community management – £78,000
- – Reduced opening hours for Buckie, Forres, Keith, Lossiemouth libraries – £35,000
- – Reduced street sweeping service – £49,000
- – Reduced opening hours at Access Points outside Elgin – £48,000
- – Reduced maintenance at cemeteries with no burials for 10 years – £32,000
- – Reduce grass cutting on rural footpaths – £20,000
The local authority’s latest series of cuts could result in the closure of Elgin Community Centre, while the opening hours of the region’s libraries also slashed.
Fees for leisure services, such as swimming pools and gyms will be increased, while a charge for the collection of garden waste will be introduced.
Some internal savings have also been identified – such as reducing fuel costs and cutting operational budgets – and will be implemented immediately.
However, other proposals including the one to shut down the community centre will not be progressed until consultations are held with public and community groups.
The SNP recently took over the council administration and inherited the current financial challenges that have befallen the stricken local authority.
Council leader Graham Leadbitter insisted his group is still committed to protecting education and keeping much-loved services such as the swimming pools and libraries open despite money difficulties.
He said: “When the SNP council group took over the council administration in June after the Conservatives abandoned the previous coalition, we knew exactly what we were taking on, however none of us stood for council expecting an easy ride and will are not shying away from the responsibility that we have to balance the council’s books.
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“In the short term that has meant some some very difficult decisions to produce the interim budget plan that we presented to the council this week. We know that having to cut this amount from the budget has an impact on jobs and an impact on the services that the people of Moray receive but it would be much worse if we allowed the council’s finances to continue to deteriorate.
“In considering the savings that we have to make we have done it with the aim of protecting preventative spend as far as possible and protecting as many facilities as we could, such as keeping swimming pools and libraries open.”
The closure of Elgin Community Centre will mean that over 20 local clubs and groups that use it will have to find a new home.
- – Up to 136 job losses
- – Close Elgin Community Centre
- – Introduce charge for collection of garden waste
- – Reduced opening hours for libraries
- – Reduced street sweeping service
- – Reduced opening hours at Access Points
- – Reduced spending on fuel
- – Changes to opening times at recycling centres
- – Increased commercialisation of leisure service
- – More focus on online services
These include Moray’s roller derby team, Elgin Judo Club and Moray Road Runners.
Elgin School of Taekwondo, who have over 60 members, have been based at the facility since the building opened in the early 1970s but now face an uncertain future.
Yesterday, instructor John Williamson, who is a former chairman of the community centre’s management committee, said the building was popular with a wide variety of groups.
He said: “There’s a great games hall upstairs, which is very popular with a lot of different sports.
“The whole building is very well used though. If it closed then it would come as quite a shock to a lot of people.
“I know it was quite badly affected by flooding but since the flood alleviation scheme has been built all of that has been sorted.”