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Moray Council may increase charges for services – but music tuition and school meals costs to be frozen

Moray Council's Elgin headquarters.
Moray Council's Elgin headquarters.

The cost of council services in Moray is to increase in an effort to generate an additional £400,000 a year.

Increases have already been set at a 5% default, more than the 3% of previous years, in order to gather more cash to sustain threatened services.

The authority is currently faced with closing a £10 million budget gap and councillors will meet tomorrow to confirm charges for the coming year.

If the increased charges are agreed it may reduce the need for cuts in budget proposals being drawn up.

Proposals include an increase in the cost of garden waste permits for households  from £36 to £40 – despite the number of annual collections reducing from 26 to 25 – monthly Fit Life memberships increasing by £1 and an increase in the cost of hiring sports facilities and meeting rooms.

Costs for schools meals and music tuition are, however, expected to be frozen for the coming year amid concerns demand could drop off.

Car parking charges are also to remain at current levels.

Aaron McLean, chairman of the council’s policy and resources committee, said: “We need to strike a balance.

“There are areas where prices have gone up dramatically in the past and we feel that if they go up further usage could drop.

“There was a big reaction to music tuition costs going up last year and schools meals is an area where we’ve already seen a drop-off.

“We also need to make the council more commercially aware, which we can do by trying to make some more money from charges we can control.”

Moray Council’s previous head of music tuition, John Mustard, quit when an 85% price increase was proposed for the service last year in a move which attracted national attention.

The rise was eventually restricted to 10%.

The authority currently banks about £8 million every year from charges that are within its control.

A 5% increase to all of those prices would generate an extra £400,000 to close the forecasted budget gap.

The changes do not include those set by the Scottish Government, which include planning application and building warrant costs, or those already at the legal maximum, including the £20 cost for a three-year blue badge vehicle pass.

In a report, the council’s chief financial officer Lorraine Paisey explained departments had considered a potential drop-off in usage when considering price increases.

She said: “Generally, charges within the control of the council and not the subject of specific budget proposals are recommended to be increased by an inflationary factor of 5%.”

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