Aberdeen City Council approves 2022/23 budget
Aberdeen City Council has approved a budget protecting vital public services whilst accelerating inclusive economic recovery.
The 2022/23 spending plan includes £1 million for a new Aberdeen Fuel Poverty Assistance Fund for people not covered by national schemes, which is expected to benefit over 6,000 households in the city.
The budget also allocated £122,000 for Summer and Easter of Play initiatives for youngsters following the success of last year’s programme.
Despite facing increasing demands and costs, the council committed to preserving key services, including park and cemetery maintenance, bus subsidies, support for equality organisations, and the city’s cultural programme.
All libraries and public toilets will remain open, parking charges, garden waste and school meal charges are unchanged, and free breakfasts, milk and fruit will continue to be provided for primary pupils.
The operating budget for the next year also contains £250,000 to expand a successful fly-tipping initiative across the city, and £150,000 will be given to the new school’s climate task force for priority projects.
Councillor Ryan Houghton, convener of the City Growth and Resources Committee, said: “The past 12 months marked significant steps towards the city’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and this budget builds on that by supporting communities and securing prosperity through sustainable growth.
“With a £1 million scheme to support those blighted by fuel poverty and no reduction in core council services such as parks maintenance or roads repairs, this budget mitigates the impact of our new economic situation.
“Our current offering to staff remains unchanged, with current terms and conditions protected alongside our ongoing commitment to no compulsory redundancies. We will also be protecting support for bus services currently subsidised by the council.
“The ambitious capital program continues to deliver as part our £150 million investment in the city centre and beach masterplan and ongoing projects like the Berryden corridor improvement. Today the council instructed the soft opening of Union Terrace Gardens on April 26th, realising an investment of nearly £30 million in the heart of our city.
“And as part of our effort to combat climate change, we are in discussion with the UK Government around Hydrogen City Twinning with Kobe in Japan to ensure Aberdeen continues to be the UK’s leading city on hydrogen. This, then, is very much a budget for the future.”
Council Leader Jenny Laing hailed the budget as one that has fairness and inclusion at its core – that promises to benefit communities across the city. She said: “Our budget epitomises fairness and inclusion as it protects the frontline services that our residents and businesses rely on, whilst also providing support for our most vulnerable citizens, and invests in programmes and projects that will improve people’s life chances.
“I am delighted we have been able to maintain full funding for the Fairer Aberdeen Fund, community projects, equalities organisations, Sistema, and SHMU, as well as ensuring there will be no library closures or increases to school meal charges, and we have also been able to retain free breakfasts, fruit and milk for our primary school children.
“Our goal has always been to turn environmental and economic success into social success.
“It goes without saying that no one should be without food, fuel and shelter in Aberdeen. Therefore, our budget includes a £1m Fuel Poverty Assistance Fund that will help over 6,000 residents who are currently in fuel poverty but are not eligible under the national scheme.
“The Summer of Play programme has also been retained and I am pleased that despite a 50% reduction in national funding, our budget will fund both a Summer of Play and an additional Easter programme.
“This budget provides a solid foundation on which to conduct our business – serving and protecting Aberdeen and its people.”
On-going investment in digital technology will bring further service enhancements whilst saving £400,000 in 2022/23, and remote working will help save £120,000 in staff travel costs.
And a further reduction in out-of-authority placements for children in care – part of the council’s whole family approach – will save £1m.
The council’s infrastructure budget offers further investment in the city centre with £250,000 allocated to upgrade lighting at St Nicholas Kirk. Other projects agreed today include demolishing Milltimber Primary School – which is being replaced – to create a development site, and adding capacity to Bucksburn Academy.
The capital programme represents an investment of more than £500m over the five years to 2026/27. There is a strong focus on reducing carbon emissions, including developing a pioneering hydrogen hub with partner bp, introducing a low emission zone in the city centre, and further greening the council fleet.
In 2022/23, council tax is to rise by 3% – in line with other local authorities across Scotland – following the removal of a grant offer to freeze it.
Cllr Houghton said: “The £3.7m we raise as a result will go directly to benefitting residents through re-investment in council services.”
The 2021/22 budget had frozen council housing rents for two years.
An investment of £500 million is being made in council housing over five years, which includes £180 million for modernising stock and delivering an additional 2,000 council homes.
Work has just started on a 536-unit development at Cloverhill, and a further 416 council homes will be delivered at Craighill, Kincorth, Kaimhill and Tillydrone.