Councillors asked to set a balanced budget of £540m

ABERDEENSHIRE Council will meet to set its budget for 2011/12 on Thursday, with a report to be presented to councillors recommending a balanced budget.

Councillors will be asked to agree a budget for Aberdeenshire Council of £540million to deliver a range of vital services to the residents of Aberdeenshire.

An interim budget was set in November – the first time the authority has taken such a decision – as a result of the unprecedented pressure on public sector budgets.

Councillors agreed savings of £51million over two years alongside a council tax freeze for 2011/12 on November 25, 2010.

The interim budget included looking at charges for council services, reviews to make the council more efficient as well as service cuts.

Work began to implement these savings as soon as councillors agreed the interim budget. In addition, further work has taken place to secure the last of the required savings – around £5million.

The council tax freeze was agreed as part of a package of measures negotiated between the Scottish Government and the COSLA Leadership following the 2010 Spending Review.

In December the Scottish Government also announced its grant settlement for Scottish councils and due to an error in calculation Aberdeenshire will receive less than originally forecasted at £426.477million for the 2011/12 financial year.

This is more than £500,000 less than originally thought and this shortfall is included in the figures within the rep

“The budget setting process hasn’t been easy but we have made significant efforts to take on board comments from our communities and will continue to do so in the future,” said council leader Cllr Anne Robertson in a report before councillors.

Aberdeenshire Council has historically received below the average for Scotland in terms of government grant per head of population, and for 2011/12 will get 12.6% less.

There has been no announcement from the Scottish Government on detailed grant figures for future years. Budget pressures have been calculated for 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15 totalling £21million.

The council’s budget is policy-led and set alongside its strategic priorities to focus spending on need. In order to address current financial pressures council leader Anne Robertson has set out three priorities of early intervention, changing demographics and economic development to underpin decision making.

She said: “The budget setting process hasn’t been easy but we have made significant efforts to take on board comments from our communities and will continue to do so in the future.

“Using the three pillars of economic development, early intervention and changing demography has helped to inform our decision making and ensure that our budgets are prioritised.

“We are looking to deliver high quality services as efficiently and effectively as possible with the resources we have and our excellent track record of managing our finances means we are prepared and ready for the future.”