Richard Lochhead

Moray SNP News



SNP Councillors have condemned the attitude of Moray Council’s Tory/Independent Administration, who refused to give ground on ‘unrealistic’ timescales on the Community Asset Transfers of community halls across Moray.

In the Council’s budget in February the Council’s Administration decided to close community halls if Community Asset Transfers could not be agreed with local groups by 30 June.

At the time SNP opposition councillors opposed the timescale with alternative budget proposals that gave communities significantly longer to get CATs in place.

Since the budget some Administration councillors have stated to community groups that they thought they would have received more support from the Council despite the fact that the same councillors are actually supposed to be in charge of the authority.

In a meeting of Moray Council, SNP councillors had proposed suspending the closure of halls to give communities and fair and reasonable chance to get their groups fully constituted, get sustainable business cases together and have time to put solid management arrangements in place for each hall. In a vote on the issue the SNP's proposal, while receiving cross party support was narrowly defeated 12 votes to 11.

Speaking after the meeting SNP Councillor for Keith and Cullen, Theresa Coull, said:

“This is nothing more than the Tory/Independent Administration taking out a big stick and forcing community groups into rushed plans with no thought to the long-term impacts of their decisions.

“There are halls in communities right across Moray affected by this and in my own ward the Longmore Hall in Keith and the Cullen Residential Centre are already losing lets because of the uncertainty that has been created.

“This in itself undermines the business cases for the halls by putting undue pressure on community groups.

“Communities are being treated appallingly and some of the comments by the Council Leader, who tried to claim that the closure of community halls is a ‘good news story’ were absolutely outrageous.”

Cllr Sonya Warren, who covers the Buckie Ward, said:

“There are so many unanswered questions on this issue that it is ridiculous the Council’s Administration are intent on pushing ahead with this crazy timescale.

“It is only a matter of weeks for community groups to get in a position to lease these halls or risk them being mothballed. Communities are totally being bounced into a position they never wanted to be in.

“There was no comment from the Council’s Administration about the impact of lost lets or about the economic loss to our communities if major events are cancelled or moved elsewhere.

“Tory and Independent Administration councillors have also failed to provide any indication of how competing community interests in some halls will be dealt with in a fair and equitable way.

“It is unacceptable to threaten closure of such a large number of key community buildings with only a matter of weeks being given for communities to take them on.

“I am seriously concerned with these timescales and while the SNP fully supports communities to take on these important assets we certainly do not support the big stick approach being taken by the Council’s Administration.”