Moray Council has vowed to push on with plans to introduce parking charges for staff at its headquarters – despite accusations they are using wages from employees to prop up its budget.
Proposals to introduce charges for vehicles at its Elgin town centre base were unanimously approved as part of £10million budget cuts.
Unions have reacted furiously at the move and intend to seek legal advice while telling members not to participate in the “contemptuous venture”.
Yesterday, council leader Graham Leadbitter stressed that extra income being generated by the authority across various schemes was protecting about £1million worth of jobs and services provided by the council – and argued free parking was available in nearby streets.
However, Moray Unison has urged a rethink about the plans amid fears they are being considered an “easy target”.
Branch secretary Suzanne Wright said: “This is a cynical act on behalf of a council which has already forced many of our members out of jobs as part of its budget proposals and placed remaining staff under great strain and pressure.
“They now seem to think our members can be used as cash cows as a replacement for lack of funds – this is simply unacceptable.
“Our members are not responsible for the desperate state of the council finances but yet, once again, our members are bearing the burden.”
Moray Council has proposed a monthly charge of £20, which would be deducted from salaries, to use the Greyfriars Street and annexe car parks – which matches the cheapest price available elsewhere in the town centre.
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The principal of the move was backed unanimously as part of budget plans but remains subject to final approval from councillors following a public consultation, which concluded in May.
Mr Leadbitter said a balance had to be struck between the impact on staff and generating more income.
He said: “Our budget challenges remain very difficult but decisions taken this year have generated about £1million in additional income, which is £1million less than we have to cut.
“There are free parking options for staff, albeit that require a walk for the final part of the journey. Staff who are disabled will continue to have access to free parking.
“In our ongoing budget deliberations we will continue to do all that we can to minimise the impact on frontline services, and by extension, on the number of jobs that we have in the council by finding ways of increasing income and offsetting budget pressures as much as possible.”
Concerns have also been raised that introducing charges for Elgin-based council staff could be considered unfair due to the move not affecting employees who work elsewhere.
Meanwhile, fears have been raised about an exodus of vehicles from the HQ sites onto nearby residential streets.
A Moray Council spokeswoman said: “Councillors have yet to formally agree the introduction of a staff parking permit scheme at Moray Council’s HQ campus.
“A public consultation was held on the proposals, and comments received during the consultation period will be considered by councillors.”