Councillors have today set the budgets for Aberdeenshire Council for the coming year, in a process that continues to be impacted by the global pandemic.
- Budgets set
- Major infrastructure fund boost over 10 years
- Investment in school estate announced.
- Community praise for pandemic response
Today members agreed to set the revenue budgets at £635 million, the capital budget for the coming year will be £108 million and the Housing Revenue Account was set at £95 million (money raised from housing rents reinvested back into the housing estate).
It was revealed that every year for 10 years an extra £700,000 will be used to support increased borrowing for investment in the Infrastructure Fund, to support projects including roads, bridges, and digital investment among other infrastructure projects. When added to the £50m commitment made last year, this amounts to an additional £180m investment over the next decade.
The impact of the past 12 months on Council budgets and resources was acknowledged across the Chamber, with recognition that when members set the current year budgets no one could have predicted just how much this would affect the lives of every individual. There was praise for the staff who kept essential services going throughout and the lives saved by the community and Council colleagues pulling together in the most spectacular way.
The gap in the budget in the middle of the last financial year was large, and with some responsible management across services that gap has been closed, but not entirely. The revenue budget set today will see extra money put into reserves to support future challenges and will result in savings being taken.
Some of the headline areas from the revenue budget are:
• Extra £500,000 in children’s services to deliver better outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and their families
• £350,000 on the rapid rehousing plan, increasing the range of permanent housing within the social and private rented sectors
• An extra £3m to early years to honour the 1140 early years commitment
• An additional £1.454m to the Integration Joint Board to support their vital work
• Maintain the pupil-teacher ratio and secure places for all probationers who require one under the teacher induction scheme
• Additional funding to social care budgets.
• Savings in the region of £21 million will be accepted.
The Council’s Capital Plan is a key lever in the wider medium term financial strategy.
It covers investment in buildings, land, roads, bridges and equipment – all of which critical to supporting a robust economy. The Capital Plan continues to be ambitious, with planned investment of nearly £972 million over 15 years. Projects included in that include extensive work in early years childcare settings, the Peterhead Community Campus, investment in digital services, roads, and bridges to name just a few.
For the coming year:
• £108 million projected spend.
• Programme for bridge work prioritisation agreed.
• Extra £13m into the infrastructure fund, each year for 10 years. Recognition of the demand on infrastructure and backlog of repairs.
• Improvements to Fraserburgh Library and Turriff Sports Centre
• Two new primary schools – replacing Dunnottar in Stonehaven and Fraserburgh North and St Andrews in Fraserburgh.
Councillors also agreed a range of reserves including a £9m general reserve and a further £9.9m into earmarked reserves.
• £3.5m for Tackling Poverty and Inequalities – picking up on some of the areas of pressure that we know will most likely impact on communities as a result of the pandemic
• £1.3m for Winter Maintenance
• £2.5m for Roads Maintenance
• £500,000 on Repairs and Maintenance to make much needed repairs and to improve the current property estate
• £2m on Education and Childrens Services Holiday Recovery Programme to support schools and young people in their return to the school environment following Covid
• £100k for a Rural Development Partnership Fund for our existing Rural Development Partnerships to help the recovery of our hard hit rural areas and to support community enterprise and resilience.
In previous years, Scottish Government settlements for each local authority were agreed and members met in February to set Council Tax and budgets together. This year, the pandemic has resulted in a number of additions to the final settlement figure, some of which are still to be formally agreed.
As a result, members delayed budget setting by a month, to get a better handle on the financial landscape before decisions were made. Back in February, they agreed a freeze on Council Tax rates for the coming year (before any additions charges are applied).
A number of alternative budgets were tabled by opposition parties and were subject to votes.