Moray Council has pledged not to make any redundancies as it battles to fill a huge black hole in its finances.
The authority’s chief executive, Roddy Burns, said that, despite facing a deficit of £12million, the council was determined not to slash jobs or services to make ends meet.
Administration members had hoped to raise £5million to help balance its books by increasing council tax by 18%.
But they were subsequently forced into a U-turn when the Scottish Government threatened strict sanctions for adjusting the levy.
Mr Burns briefed employees yesterday on the council’s revised approach to making savings, ahead of a decisive budget meeting next week.
He said that the authority could achieve £3.5million in savings during the next year, but noted that £700,000 of that would be from setting projects aside for one year only.
Mr Burns vowed to place more scrutiny on whether vacancies needed to be filled.
The council boss added: “None of the savings identified put any members of staff at risk, and should not result in a reduction to council services.”
The authority b will plunder £6.3million from its reserves of nearly £19million in order to keep that vow.
Mr Burns stressed that the chosen strategy created a “huge challenge” for next year’s budget.
He added: “Due to continuing growth in demand for services and prices continuing to increase, current estimates for year commencing April 2017 indicate that the recurring shortfall will double to £14million.”
Leader of Moray Council’s SNP opposition group, Gary Coull, said plans to scoop £6.3million from reserves were “ill thought out”.
He said Nationalist members had devised ways the authority could make “substantial” savings without draining the council’s cashpile.
Mr Coull said: “We are confident we can find substantial additional savings on top of that, which will not impact on the public.
“The administration group has not worked hard enough on this.”
The opposition leader also said yesterday’s announcement exposed claims that an 18% council tax rise was essential in cutting costs without axing services as a myth.
“This goes to show that the move to increase council tax was completely unnecessary,” he said.
“The administration group jumped in with both feet and caused people weeks of worry.”
The full council will meet on Wednesday to discuss budget proposals.