Council budget approved

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Aberdeenshire Council has set its revenue budget for the next ive years.

Councillors agreed a budget of £517 million for 2014/15 to support the delivery of frontline services.

Members also provisionally approved the revenue budget for 2015-19, preparing for future challenges by taking a long term approach to budget setting.

In an unusual step, the budget was seconded by Leader of the SNP Group, Councillor Hamish Vernal, demonstrating the support across the Chamber for the proposals.

Cllr Vernal said: “Today we are breaking from tradition and I am accepting the clear invitation from the Council Leader to join with him in finding solutions for the challenges that lie ahead for the council.

“We have outlined a number of areas – such as Town Centre Regeneration, more affordable housing stock, and transport infrastructure – where the council’s Administration shares our desire to see progress on these issues. On these areas of common ground, we can work together for the common good of Aberdeenshire.

“The SNP look forward to influencing and participating fully in the budget discussions ahead of Aberdeenshire over the coming months. We believe that we have the experience and the vision to contribute to strategic choices about the Council’s future which are best for residents.”

The budget makes four key commitments for the next 12 months:

* Affordable Housing – Within five years, double the amount of affordable housing being built, and exploring the private sector role in delivering more affordable housing.

* Community Planning – Three year funding plans for voluntary groups. Working effectively with partners to shape our vision for Aberdeenshire.

* Infrastructure – Promoting enhancements to North East road, rail and broadband.

* Regeneration – Working with partners and communities to get the best outcomes for regeneration areas. A review of council assets will include the school estate to provide buildings fit for the 21st Century.

Looking ahead for the next four years to 2018/19, budget savings of around £49 million will be required, because the grant from the Scottish Government is likely to remain largely the same, while the cost of delivering services is increasing every year.

Addressing the full meeting of councillors, Council Leader Jim Gifford said: “The proposed budget from the Aberdeenshire Alliance is a measured and appropriate response to the financial circumstances in which we find ourselves.

“It reacts to the present while casting a proactive eye to the future and the financial challenges that undoubtedly lie ahead.

“These challenges must be addressed so that we can ensure that the correct services are provided in the right place, at the right time.”