New group formed as Council Administration face difficult choices

WHILE MORAY COUNCILLORS are set to deliberate over their budget for 2018/19 next week, a meeting being held this afternoon could set the scene for how difficult that might prove to be.

Currently the Council is split evenly down the middle, with the ruling Conservative and Independent alliance of 13 Councillors still holding – but, insideMORAY understands, only just.

On the other side of the Council chamber are nine SNP members – and now, we understand, there is a ‘third power’ in the local authority.

That consists of one Labour and three non-aligned Councillors – two of whom are former members of the Administration group – who have formally notified the Council that they are to be regarded as a group.

Today’s meeting (at 2pm – webcast available online)  – is being held to decide committee membership as a result of changes in the Administration group structure. It was scheduled to take place before Christmas, however, the Council Leader, George Alexander, called for a delay with more than a hint of trouble in the ruling group.

Now with the new group being formed a new dimension is added in that they will wish to be represented on committees, an effective dilution of the power-base for the Administration group.

The wider picture of the budget, meanwhile, remains far from clear, with the draft that was widely discussed up to December having been based on assumptions of a major fall in the Scottish Government contribution.

We understand that some members of the Administration remain determined that most if not all of the measures in their draft budget should go ahead regardless of the £2.75million increase in allocation to Moray announced in the Scottish Budget last week.

Today’s meeting could make interesting viewing.