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Concerns voiced over Moray harbours costs

By Alan Beresford

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A MORAY councillor has voiced concerns over the levels of costs and missed funding opportunities for region's council-run harbours.

Councillor Sonya Warren: Report "Poses more questions than it answers".
Councillor Sonya Warren: Report "Poses more questions than it answers".

Councillor Sonya Warren (SNP, Buckie), who chairs both the Buckie and Findochty Harbour Advisory Committees, has spoken out following the latest meeting of the council's economic growth, housing and environmental stability committee, where budgets and income for the six harbours were discussed.

Among the figures put before councillors, it was revealed that the maintenance budget for the harbours – which includes costs for the Moray Council dredger Selkie – was £103,390. Dredging operations have been allocated £180,000.

Income from the harbours as of February and March last year stood at just over £700,000. Councillors were told that the 2019/20 income figure used is a projection based on latest income for February and an estimate for March

However, Councillor Warren felt that the statistics posed more questions than they answered.

She said: "When I saw the maintenance figures one of the first things which struck me was 'How much of that is down to the Selkie?', which is not something shown.

"To me the overall figures seem a very high – are these average costs?

"There is a huge list of items in the report under harbour infrastructure maintenance which could easily have been funded under the Scottish Government scheme for ports which had been affected by Brexit. We missed out on this as the council said they didn't have any projects which could be completed in the timescale given.

"I'm sure some of the repairs or improvements on the list could have been kept as shovel ready projects which could be put forward when funding sources become available. I'd hope a lesson has been learned from this."

Turning to income from the harbours, she added: "The budget for harbour income doesn't show anything since what was projected for February/March last year?

"Why is there no projected income for this year? We need to know how much Covid and Brexit has hit our harbour income."

A Moray Council spokeswoman said: "The £103,390 maintenance budget relates to harbours; the Selkie maintenance budget is dealt with separately.

"In terms of harbours maintenance, the amount is similar to previous years.

"We don’t yet have full year figures for 2020/21 which is why the information reported was up to 2019/20. We anticipate full-year income for the harbours to be very close to the budgeted amount, and will confirm once the year-end figures have been finalised.

"We are already discussing potential schemes for this year’s funding opportunities."

The document set out the planned number of days dredging planned for council harbours over the next year, along with the budget allocated to each. Councillors were warned that these figures could be disrupted by weather and other factors.

Buckie Harbour has been allocated 13 days at a cost of £39,000, Findochty eight (£24,000), Portknockie three (£9000), Cullen two (£6000) and Hopeman four (£12,000). Burghead is the biggest winner by far, securing 30 days of dredging with a budget of £90,000.

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