Richard Lochhead

Moray SNP News



SNP Councillors have increased the pressure on Moray Council’s Tory/Independent Administration over their decision to close community halls in June if communities are not able to take them on with Community Asset Transfers.

During February’s council budget setting meeting SNP Councillors raised concerns over the very short timescale for communities to pull together Community Asset Transfer proposals.

Since then Tory and Independent Councillors in Moray Council’s Administration have seemed surprised at the lack of support available from the Council to help communities form viable and properly constituted organisations to take on the community facilities with some senior Administration councillors telling communities that the council will keep halls running longer if there is a viable proposal for transfer to allow a transition period. This, despite the fact that no proposals on how the process will work have been formally presented by the Council’s Administration.

SNP councillor for Keith and Cullen, Theresa Coull, and SNP Councillor for Buckie, Sonya Warren, have put forward a motion to the next meeting of Moray Council calling on the Council to:

(i) Suspend its decision made in the Financial Plan setting of 14 February 2018 to close Town Halls and Community Centres in June on the grounds that not all councillors had a proper understanding of what they were voting for.

(ii) Put in place a costed plan to provide appropriate community support to groups wishing to take on ownership and/or running of Town Halls and Community Centres using the Community Asset Transfer process.

(iii) Provide a further report to council on how such community support can be provided along with more realistic timescale proposals to achieve Community Asset Transfers of Halls and Community Centres with minimal disruption to activities taking place in those facilities.

Speaking about the motion Cllr Coull said:

“The budget decision on community halls was incredibly short-sighted and ill-thought out. While the SNP supports community groups to take on the running of community assets such as town halls through the Community Asset Transfer process, we made it clear in the budget that more realistic timescales and support have to be in place.

“Tory and Independent Administration councillors seem surprised at the problems their decision has caused but it has been entirely predictable and, more importantly, avoidable.

“In my own ward the Longmore Hall in Keith wasn’t even in the budget consultation, apparently in error, giving the community even less time to try and save this important asset.

“What communities need is support and not threats.”

Speaking about the issue Cllr Warren said:

“We are in a situation where communities are not clear about where the goalposts are on Community Asset Transfers. They are being asked to produce a ‘viable’ business case to run their halls with no definition or explanation of what ‘viable’ means. They are being told different things from different Administration councillors at different times and they are left to their own devices with no idea if what they’re doing is the right thing.

“That is an unacceptable way to treat communities and volunteers.

“The SNP fully supports community involvement in running services but if the Council wants people to take this level of responsibility in running valuable community assets then the Council must take more responsibility for the basic support for communities to get the best business plans and organisations in place to make them successful.

“This is a one off opportunity for the Council to do something really positive rather than rush headlong into a damaging and divisive closure of community halls.”