CASH-strapped Moray Council, already under fire over controversial plans to close seven libraries, today announced the authority is to go out to consultation over proposals to reduce the council’s lands and parks service.
The review, which will also include burial grounds in the area, is aimed at achieving savings of £510,000 a year from the council’s parks and countryside budget.
The council, which is faced with having to make £24million of savings over the next three years, has already trimmed its grounds maintenance budget by £100,000 in the current financial year.
The decision to consult with both the workforce and trade unions was taken behind closed doors at today’s meeting of the full Moray Council. The number of jobs under threat has not been disclosed.
A council spokesman said in a statement, released after the meeting, that the proposed reductions in service included the closure of the Elgin nursery which raises summer bedding plants, a restructuring of the burial grounds service, and a reduction in the council’s countryside ranger service.
The North east authority is also considering proposals to reduce the development and maintenance of the core paths and countryside footpath network and to increase burial ground charges to recover the costs of the service.
A reduction in maintenance standards of low amenity areas is also being considered in consultation with local elected members and communities
The council spokesman said: “Councillors also agreed to review the management structure within the overall parks and countryside service. It is hoped that the inevitable reductions in staffing levels will be achieved through non-compulsory means as far as possible.”
Councillor Stewart Cree, the council’s convener, said the major savings which were being proposed would help the council balance its budget.
He said: “These proposals were developed by the cross-party group of councillors which is reviewing all services provided by the council to match declining resources to a range of competing priorities.
“A strong theme emerging from the cross-party working group is that communities will need to take on greater responsibilities for services and their local environment.
“The savings agreed today will reduce the annual cost of grounds maintenance by £510,000 and will include the council no longer providing or maintaining flowers and shrub beds. There will also be a reduction in the areas of grass the council will be able to cut or the frequency of cutting.”
Councillor Cree added: “Community groups will be provided with details of the areas that the council proposes to continue to maintain and will be given the opportunity to make alternative proposals. If community groups agree on alternative proposals that can be delivered for the same cost as the council suggestion, then the community proposal will be implemented.”