Concerns have been raised Moray Council may be missing out on tourism funding grants to prepare the region for another staycation surge.
Destinations across the north and north-east are expected to rely on UK visitors through the summer season again due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Last year some beauty spots were overwhelmed with tourists with facilities unable to cope with the numbers.
Funding could have helped prepare Moray for another staycation summer
Cash grants have been made available to help fund improvements to avoid the same happening again, with Nature Scot offering up to £75,000 for projects as part of a Green Recovery Fund.
However, concerns have been raised that Moray Council is under-staffed to capitalise on the tourism grants due to staff being too busy administering separate grants to businesses to submit an application.
Senior officials have stressed resources are expected to free up in the coming months but opposition councillors are concerned opportunities may already have been missed.
Independent Speyside Glenlivet councillor Derek Ross said: “Officers blame capacity and I understand that, but if that is the case councillors really should be presented with options on how to fix that for the future.
“I can think of a huge range of projects, which would have fitted under the recent grants which would have been brilliant for my ward in Speyside.
“The Green Recovery Fund could give us rangers who could help support tourism over the summer or reopen some of the closed public toilets.”
Conservative group leader Tim Eagle said: “Whilst it was good to hear at a recent meeting an application will now be made, that was not originally the case.
“It’s a pretty difficult ask for councillors to be told to make the Moray public aware about the financial problems the council faces, only to then miss out on opportunities to increase that.”
Grant situation ‘challenging’ for Moray Council
Concerns about the Green Recovery Fund follow a separate £400,000 Moray Council tourism project being delayed because the a funding bid for the Scottish Government was not ready.
Meanwhile, independent Buckie councillor Gordon Cowie has also raised concerns about the local authority missing out on a harbours fund to compensate for a loss of landing fees during the coronavirus pandemic, which Fraserburgh received a £500,000 boost from to fund repairs.
Depute chief executive Rhona Gunn explained dedicating a team to funding applications was unlikely to resolve the issue due to the need for specialist knowledge – but stressed the situation was likely to improve.
She said: “The grants situation is challenging, sometimes timescales are difficult.
“I think we have had significant issues in the economic development team because they have been deployed to administer the various grants that have been made available to businesses, which was made a priority by councillors.
“I think as we move beyond the streams of pandemic funding we will get back to a position more akin to normality.”