Aberdeenshire Council's focus is on 'building back better'

Aberdeenshire Council’s Conservative group has hit out at “continued underfunding” by the Scottish Government for much of the cutbacks required by the local authority to balance the books.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 6:22 am
Aberdeenshire Council leader Andy Kille says underfunding by the Scottish Government has added to the local authority's financial challenges.

The Council’s Conservative-led administration passed its budget in a virtual meeting last week, with council leader Andy Kille saying the focus for the next year will be on “buildng back better”.

But while looking to support communities and businesses with a range of measures – a 12-month Council Tax freeze, £2.5m extra for tackling potholes, a £10.8m post Covid resilience and recovery fund, a £2m education and social wellbeing recovery fund, £1.45m increase in IJB funding for Health and Social Care, a £3.5m additional pot for tackling poverty and inequalities – Cllr Kille said Aberdeenshire Council was still “one of the worst-funded councils in Scotland”.

And he stressed that additional “one-year-only cash” from the Scottish Government would not solve continued underfunding of the core revenue grant.

He said this had led to £9.6 million of service savings being accepted and millions being added to reserves.

“We need to act now to protect ourselves for the future because we’re not out of choppy waters yet,” said Cllr Kille. “This year’s budget needs to be prudent.

“We need to plug last year’s £21m gap and next year’s £22m anticipated gap.

“The budget has been designed to place the council in a solid fiscal position.”

He also warned the council could face budgetary pressures of up to £65m over the next four years.

Despite these challenges, he insisted the administration was keen to invest heavily in supporting Aberdeenshire to recover from both the pandemic and the oil downturn.

Cllr Kille added: “As we start to come through this, we will build on that spirit of innovation and resilience…

“We have all said that we probably won’t go back to what we had before, now is the time to seize the opportunity for change and build back better than before.”

The council leader announced capital investment into local infrastructure, including a £180m local infrastructure fund, a £40m programme for bridges and roads, £500,000 extra for grass cutting, £1.3m for winter roads maintenance.

Conservative Group Spokesperson for Infrastructure, Councillor Alan Fakley, said: “This is new funding above the normal revenue funding and will be spent solely on our infrastructure such as potholes, bridges and community facilities. This funding is only being made available because of the modern, inventive yet prudent financial leadership of this administration.

"The investment we’ve made will help us tackle the backlog of repairs and maintenance caused by the year-on-year cuts to the councils revenue budget by the SNP Scottish Government.”

Education also took centre stage with new schools planned in Stonehaven and Fraserburgh, as well as a commitment to the Peterhead Commuity Campus, £10m to fund building repairs in education and Live Life Aberdeenshire and a commitment to honour the 1140 hours of early learning and childcare.

Councillor Gillian Owen, Chairperson of Education and Children’s Services, said: “Our learning estate is crucial when it comes to teaching and learning and we are proud that Peterhead Community Campus will soon become a reality, and now, with the inclusion of Fraserburgh and Dunnottar in Stonehaven this is a further step towards modernising our school estate.”