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Aberdeenshire Council agrees a range of new plans for services

By Kyle Ritchie

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Aberdeenshire Council has adopted a range of new plans which will change the way services are delivered.

At the meeting of full council today (Thursday), councillors agreed to a new Council Plan.

The document, which is now live on the local authority’s website, sets a new direction for the organisation and makes it clear what it is working to achieve.

Aberdeenshire Council has adopted a range of new plans which will change the way services are delivered.
Aberdeenshire Council has adopted a range of new plans which will change the way services are delivered.

It was drawn up after a extensive piece of research and data analysis into the needs of the Aberdeenshire population in the coming year.

That document, referred to as the Strategic Assessment, showed the region is to have one of the fastest ageing population rates in Scotland and that in the coming years the needs of Aberdeenshire residents is going to shift.

It was agreed a new plan would be needed to support that shift.

The plan has been published, after it was agreed by Full Council. It has three fundamental pillars:

A sustainable economy

We will support a strong and diverse economy by attracting people of working age to our region, complementing our highly skilled local workforce.

Connected communities

We will work with communities and partners to enhance the sense of connection among our places. This includes supporting communities to come up with innovative solutions to ensure our places are resilient and vibrant.

Living well locally

We will encourage and support our residents to lead healthy and active lives and contribute meaningfully to their communities. We will make proactive choices that will allow us to cater to the needs of our increasingly ageing population.

The above, as well as the actions that sit underneath, can all be found on the council website: www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/councilplan

Aberdeenshire Council must adapt to significant demographic changes and financial constraints.

By 2030, Aberdeenshire’s population over 65 will rise by 28 per cent, while the working-age and young populations are projected to decrease by two per cent each.

Additionally, a decline of up to seven per cent is expected in the school-age population across 11 of 17 school clusters.

All this means the council must review its priorities and focus on where it can make the greatest impact with the money it has.

Evidence from the strategic assessment suggests that Aberdeenshire residents experience better outcomes than those in other parts of Scotland - higher employment rates and economic participation, greater household incomes, higher vocational qualifications, better health outcomes and longevity, and lower rates of crime and disorder.

It also showed significant budgetary pressures, the impact of rural populations facing greater challenges – known as the rural premium – and a deepening divide in communities feeling hardship more acutely.

In the meeting, councillors looked in detail at the strategic assessment, and considered the new plan in terms of whether it could help those worst affected. It was recognised this was a period of change, but that change was essential.

In her speech in the chamber, Council Leader Gillian Owen said: “Whilst this Plan gives clear direction on the activity for future years, it will also help us decide where we will disinvest, by changing, reducing or stopping services.

“Over the next few years, we will reshape our services to allow us to work within the budget we have.

“Not an easy job – but we are committed to doing this in an open and transparent way, ensuring our communities are informed and engaged about the changes we need to make.”

Deputy Leader Councillor Anne Stirling said: “Our older population will increase by 28 per cent by 2030 with a decline in children and young people and people of working age – that’s just six years away.

“The impact of that on our communities is significant – and we must respond now so our services aren’t overwhelmed or, indeed, there is over-provision in areas where there is a reducing need.

“This Plan sets out how we prepare for what’s ahead. A strong economy is vital to the success of any place – we want to be attractive for businesses to locate, and they need a skilled and resilient workforce.”

The Plan itself is here: www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/councilplan

The council also supported the Transformation Strategy. The strategy itself was approved in November last year and has in it five themes and councillors approved the first major business case, releasing a near-£1 million investment to be spent on the first year of the big data workstream.

This will be spent on a project to delivering savings by tackling manual and routine processes within the council, meanwhile a further £3 million was released to put resources in place to support the whole Transformation programme.

Transformation will mean future change, and the funding commitment gives officers the opportunity to improve manual processes, freeing up staff time or changing the way services are delivered.

The Place Strategy and Place Policy was also approved. Councillors endorsed the direction, where officers will now work at a local level to better understand the assets, issues and needs of a place, and coordinating action and investment to deliver better outcomes, promote interconnections and strong relationships, and improve the quality of life for communities.

Work can now begin in earnest to develop the local place plans, alongside those communities.

At the meeting, councillors agreed that all the discussions are connected.

The Place discussion is essential to delivering the Council Plan, which feeds from the strategic assessment and can only be delivered if services transform the organisation.

Council Leader Cllr Owen added: “Aberdeenshire is a large and diverse area and the needs of our communities are very different.

“Since the creation of Aberdeenshire as a local authority area, we recognised the importance of local solutions and local decisions – these documents build on the fantastic work in developing strong local community links through our area committees and area management teams.

“They will not be a silver bullet or a promise to deliver everything a community wants – but a plan which is jointly-owned and where we come together to try and find solutions.”

Council Deputy Leader Cllr Stirling added: “Of course, as the council, our impact on our places is just one small part – in order for the approach to be truly successful, the plans need to be developed in collaboration with other agencies, community groups and residents.

“I am really pleased with the support our Community Planning partners have given to this work and their commitment to providing the necessary time, capacity and resources from their respective organisations, to ensure the plans are meaningful, reflective of local circumstances and truly informed by the voices of local people.”

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