Aberdeenshire Councillors today met to set a budget for 2021/22.
The SNP, Labour and Communities opposition partnership proposed an alternative budget, which was based on recovery from the pandemic, community empowerment, and support for the workforce of the council.
Commenting, Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Gwyneth Petrie (SNP) said:
Our budget proposals gave a real commitment to listening to and empowering the voices of our communities, whilst taking steps to protect and support our workforce.
The last year has been particularly difficult for those living throughout Aberdeenshire, and our budget avoided any savings which would cause further unnecessary hardship or negative impacts for them.
There were a number of areas of similarity across the three budgets proposed today, which is reflective of the situation we find ourselves in. There are, however, also some clear differences between our budget and the administration’s budget, and it is disappointing that we will now see financial savings against our workforce, a drop in the maintenance of our outdoor recreation spaces, and a reduction in the revenue funding for flood works, in particular.
In terms of the capital budget, we very much welcome the inclusion of the two new primary schools to that, and recognise the importance of such renewals to our school estate. We do however retain some concern over the funding mechanism proposed to support the additional capital plan works -our budgetary proposals today were focussed on making the best of the money we have, and not about planning the spend of money we do not yet have. In these times of great uncertainty, we felt it too difficult to commit to that level of further spend.
We do welcome commitments of others to work together going forward – and we give the same commitment in return. Through joint working and collaboration, we can make the biggest difference to those we represent.
Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Alison Evison (Labour) added:
Recovery was a common feature in the proposals presented today, but there were clear differences about how to get there.
Our priority was to make the best use of the money we have to support the well-being of our communities both socially and economically now. We recognise that our local communities and businesses have had a year of challenges, and that different people have felt the impacts differently, with inequalities being magnified for some. We focused on a budget which would foster renewal, enable social interaction again and rebuild essential confidence, avoiding savings which we thought would only bring more uncertainty and anxiety.
We wanted to empower our communities to be able to take more control of the decisions that impact their local area, to make the choices that will shape their locality, to give voice to lived experience, to work with third sector partners on local projects, and so we are very disappointed that our proposal to create funding to enable this to happen was rejected.
Our budget proposals were also about working with our staff to shape the council as it moves forward and we rejected savings based on a review of terms and conditions. We recognise the leadership role the council should show in promoting fair work as a major local employer.
We share the ambition of colleagues across the chamber to continue to enhance and develop the school estate, in particular through the addition of two new schools to the capital plan and are keen for the funding mechanisms for these to be clear, appropriate and agreed.
There was commitment given today for continued shared working to achieve the best outcomes – and we are ready for our part in that.