Aberdeenshire Council agrees budget for next financial year

Aberdeenshire Council agrees budget for next financial year

Aberdeenshire Council has set its revenue, capital and carbon budgets for council services, with a focus on getting best value for money.

They met yesterday to agree budgets for the coming year. It was described as prudent to forecast ahead for challenges coming around the corner – with recognition across the chamber of an increased cost of living, an increased cost of delivering services and an increasing cost of supplies.

The revenue budget was set at £660 million, while the capital budget over the next 15 years was set at £1.157 billion. Reserves were set at £75m, with £9m in general fund reserves (the rest earmarked).

The council also agreed that carbon emissions will be reduced by a minimum of 1445 tCO2e in 2022-23 and a commitment was unanimously agreed in support of the people of Ukraine.

The budget was agreed following the consideration of alternative proposals and a series of votes. As a result, it was set for the coming year at £660m.

In order to deliver services, Aberdeenshire Council spends around £2.3m every day on delivering a range of services to residents. Many people will only recognise a handful of those services – schools, bins, roads, housing and care; but there are many more that we all need and rely on but are often not seen as part of the frontline services provided by the council, like economic development, environmental health, leisure, benefits and community learning and development.

There was recognition that the cost of delivering services meant an increasingly hard environment in which to continue to deliver at the point of need. Members agreed to implement national settlement agreements, which includes extra funding for health and social care to accommodate real living wage and care at home, and extra funding for additional teacher vacancies.

Some of what was agreed in the budget is as follows:

  • Sustainability targets to be funded to the increased tune of £500,000 from reserves. It will fully fund the council’s sustainability route map drawn up by the Sustainability Committee.
  • £1m extra funding to invest in parks and open spaces, burial grounds, and road safety initiatives
  • Participatory budgets on leisure, parks and open spaces as well public toilets will get an extra boost. Area teams will be empowered to use extra funding to engage communities to spend around 1.5% of budgets on a participatory basis. This is more than the national targets.

Council leader Councillor Andy Kille said: We have faced unprecedented challenges over the past 2 years, as the pandemic required us to shift our focus, change or stop services, and severely impacted our ability to generate income. Over recent months, Aberdeenshire has been battered by storms which saw infrastructure like roads, telecommunications and power wiped out for days.

“Again, teams stepped up to provide practical support and help communities get back on their feet, but all this impacts on our day-to-day activity and has a direct impact on our budget. Add to that the increasing costs of inflation, staff costs, energy prices and the employer’s contribution to National Insurance – the impact on local councils is significant.”

The 15-year Capital Budget (the strategy for capital investment) was also agreed. This budget resources investment in buildings, land and development opportunities. It is an essential part of the wider medium term financial strategy.

The plan itself outlines nearly £1.2bn investment over 15 years.

Projects within it include ongoing work such as the Stonehaven Flood Protection Scheme, early years investment across the estate, the development of the Energy from Waste site development, ongoing commitment to school estate development including primaries in Stonehaven and Fraserburgh as well as the new Peterhead Community Campus, due for opening around 2026.

Last year it was agreed to invest in an infrastructure capital fund, and that commitment was restated today, with a percentage of the recently agreed Council Tax increase being used to support investment in infrastructure projects such as bridge restoration and road repairs. That fund also dedicated commitment to investment improving Live Life Aberdeenshire facilities.

Throughout the process there were also budget proposals put forward and voted on from the Partnership and the Democratic Independent and Green Group.

In late February, a 3% increase in Council Tax and a 1.5% increase in housing rents for the coming year was agreed, which will come into effect from 1 April.

At the conclusion of the meeting, councillors unanimously agreed a Notice of Motion, raised by Councillor Petrie, seconded by Councillor Evison, who said:  “That Aberdeenshire Council reaffirms the commitment it made in September 2015 to actively supporting the resettlement of refugees. The council expresses its full support and solidarity to the Ukrainian people and our peers in local and regional government and will contribute actively to a formal Ukrainian Refugee Resettlement Scheme. Moreover, if demand for resettlement exceeds existing council commitments, we resolve to increase our commitment appropriately.”

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