Aberdeenshire Council sets its budget for 2020/21
Aberdeenshire Council has met to agree its budget for 2020/21.
This follows a meeting in February where councillors set council tax for the year ahead, separating out the two meetings due to the timing of the December general election and the subsequent delayed announcement of the local government financial settlement.
A key consideration of this year’s budget setting has been the council’s response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the commitment of the council to provide support to communities and businesses, to protect its workforce and to maintain essential critical services.
At the meeting on Wednesday councillors debated a number of reports including the medium-term financial strategy, which sets out the combined impact on services and financial planning of all the resources available to the council. This includes the revenue budget, the capital plan, reserves, carbon budget and Housing Revenue Account.
Council leader, Jim Gifford, focused on the budget that the council will use to deliver local services which is in excess of £1 billion each year with the combined funding for revenue, capital, reserves and housing.
He set out the pressures being felt by services due to reduced income and increased demand and costs.
He also set out the focus on the council’s priorities, and said: “We will continue to place a strong emphasis on our priorities – health and well-being, tackling poverty, educating our children and young people, caring for those who need our support, investing in infrastructure, supporting our economy and looking to the future, in particular minimising our impact on the environment.”
He announced that the rise in Council Tax would be used to support borrowing of £55 million for the repair and replacement of key aspects of the roads and bridges network.
A further £4.2 million has been allocated to health and social care services, whilst education have been largely protected from any cuts.
In responding to Coronavirus (Covid-19), he set out a package of initiatives to support business and local communities.
This includes £138,000 to administer rates relief to business as agreed by the Scottish Government; the removal of all savings for economic development (£160,000) for continued advice and support to business and a £200,000 community resilience fund to support voluntary and community groups over the coming months as they respond locally to the needs of their communities.
Councillor Gifford said: “The decisions we take today will help us to respond to the greatest demand on our services that any of us have ever seen - or are likely to see - in our lifetimes.
"These truly are remarkable times we live in and we have moved quickly to put in place measures to respond appropriately and proportionately to the threat of Covid 19 (coronavirus) on our communities, our workforce, and our economy.”
There was cross-council recognition for the efforts and planning going into the response to coronavirus and understanding of the impact on both services and budgets.
Alternative budgets were put forward by the Partnership and Democratic and Green Group.
The Partnership’s proposals, put forward by councillor Alison Evison, placed a focus on their priorities of community empowerment with an increased allocation of funding to area committees, investment in participatory budgeting, community resilience, climate change and community transport schemes.
The Democratic and Green Group called on councillors to look beyond the current coronavirus crisis and focus on the other challenges facing the council, including a climate change emergency fund, an improved waste strategy and a focus on transportation to get more cars off the road.
The Administration’s budget was approved by 34 votes to 19, with three no votes.
A list of the savings agreed by councillors are set out in the Council reports (see appendix 3)