Financial chiefs have warned Moray Council that their plans to keep just £5million in reserves for emergencies will only cover half the annual “risks”.
The authority has been plundering its savings in recent years in order to prop up its budget while making multi-million savings.
Cuts of up to £12million need to be made for next year’s financial plan, while the reserves will drop to £5million.
But despite warnings that there will not be enough in the reserves to cover pothole claims, flooding or even a harsh winter, the authority yesterday unanimously agreed to maintain the fund at the same level.
Figures prepared by head of financial services Lorraine Paisey detailed £9.95million of risks including pothole claims, a flood, an infrastructure failure similar to the one at Cullen Harbour last year, a smaller government grant than forecast and the effect a harsh winter could have on gritting.
Forres Conservative councillor Claire Feaver, said: “These are not just maybe-risks. They are very real such as a rise in demand for services and are things that could happen.
“The winter maintenance budget for a mild winter is overspent, and we don’t even have figures for if it is not mild.
“These things are not unlikely, they do happen year-on-year.”
Mrs Paisey told the committee that ensuring cash was available to pay for about half of the possible risks was an acceptance that some events were “quite likely” to happen – but the level of cover was “reasonable”.
She added: “Some are more likely to happen than others but they are all risks and may or may not be able to be absorbed in the budget.”
Meanwhile, calls were made for more forward planning to prepare the region for forecasted cuts of £12million next year.
A consultation is already under way regarding savings of about £5million that have already have been identified.
Yesterday, Elgin City North Conservative councillor Frank Brown pressed the SNP administration to prepare a plan for how the budget cuts would be identified.
However, council leader Graham Leadbitter insisted it was more prudent to wait until the size of government grant was known.
He said: “Parts of the budget, where appropriate, may come forward at different times but the budget is not due to be finalised until February.
“The idea that we publish it without all the facts in front of us is nonsense.”
Mr Brown said: “It’s essential that a plan is prepared. It’s no good waiting until February and then saying ‘This is the plan’ and then having no time to consult the public.”
Independent Forres councillor George Alexander added: “The decisions made by previous administrations over the last nine years have ensured there are still reserves to soften the blow for next year’s budget.”
Moray Council renewed its reserve funds policy yesterday to keep the minimum level at £5million. It will be reviewed again within three years.