Meeting of Aberdeenshire Council Thursday 21st January 2016

The meeting began with an update on the council’s response to the flooding across Aberdeenshire at the beginning of the year.

Chief Executive Jim Savege spoke about the impact of the flooding following the unprecedented rainfall across Aberdeenshire. He estimated that between 500 and 600 homes had been flooded, along with 100 businesses during the events of the end of December and beginning of January. He acknowledged the exemplary response by council staff, volunteers and agencies who came together to respond to the emergency. “Whilst there is great sadness to see the effect on people, it has also given me great pride to see how people have responded,” he said.

Provost Hamish Vernal expressed his sincere thanks, and that of all councillors, to the council staff, emergency services, partner agencies and volunteers who worked tirelessly across Aberdeenshire to help those in need and to respond to the emergency with ‘a fantastic effort’.

Cllr Richard Thomson reflected on the response to re-open the Invercauld Bridge and the A93 between Ballater and Braemar, reconnecting communities and helping them to get back in business as quickly as possible.

Cllr Martin Kitts-Hayes echoed the thanks to all, saying that he had seen first-hand the effect on communities and the devastation caused by the floods, and how impressed he had been at the response to help those in need.

Cllr Jim Gifford commented on the ‘remarkable’ community resilience, whilst tributes were paid to the teams across Aberdeenshire who worked to clear roads and check the entire roads and bridges network, and other teams responsible for the well-being and safety of people also stepped up to provide vital support.

Cllr Moira Ingleby paid particular tribute to the team at the Banchory Roads Depot who had worked tirelessly during and following the flooding to keep roads open and rebuild the damaged infrastructure in the area, and thanked them for their ‘incredible’ work.

Cllr Geva Blackett described the scenes in Ballater as ‘difficult to take in’ but recognised the good that had come out of the emergency, which had brought people and communities together. She described it as ‘human nature at its best’.

Cllr Vernal confirmed that the council was working with Foundation Scotland to administer financial donations to help those in need and that groups who wished to use the Foundation to administer donations were welcome to do so, and could stipulate if monies had been raised for any particular community as part of the arrangement. He highlighted that significant funds had been raised and would benefit communities where it was needed most.

New Year’s Honours

The Provost acknowledged the Aberdeenshire people who received awards in the New Year’s Honours.

Officer of the Order of the British Empire was awarded to Patricia Straughen, Aberdeen, for services to Cancer Care in North East of Scotland; Member of the Order of the British Empire was awarded to Georgina Maitland, Banchory, Founder of the Sandpiper Trust for services to Medical Emergencies; Juliette Paton, Aberdeen, for services to charity in Aberdeenshire; Kristine Pawson, near Insch, for Voluntary and Charitable service in Aberdeenshire; and Maureen Stephen, Turriff, for services to Business and the community in Aberdeenshire; and Medallist of the Order of the British Empire was awarded to Margaret Green, Inverurie, for services to the community in Oldmeldrum particularly through the Bourtie Rural Women’s Institute.

Notice of Motion
Cllr Jim Gifford submitted a notice of motion calling on the council to support any councillor who attends CoSLA meetings – whether nominated by the council or by any of the political groups within CoSLA – where such attendance would be of benefit to the council. Such support would include travel and other expenses.
Cllr Gifford urged councillors to support the notice of motion as all councillors attending CoSLA meetings did so for the benefit of Aberdeenshire.
Cllr Alison Evison put forward an amendment stating that there must remain a distinction between councillors appointed by the Council to attend CoSLA meetings on behalf of the council, and those who are appointed by political groups. She also stated that in particular circumstances where there was benefit to the council, payment of expenses would be considered by the Policy & Resources Committee.
The motion was defeated 30 votes to 34 with one no vote.

Aberdeen City and Shire Strategic and Organisational Tourism Review

Councillors agreed to the formation of a new Aberdeen City and Shire Destination Management Organisation (DMO) to promote and market the region to visitors. They agreed to transfer the current council tourism budget of £400,000 to the new organisation and asked for regular updates on performance and activity to be reported to area committees every 6 months. They also agreed that Provost Hamish Vernal would represent Aberdeenshire Council on the DMO, with Cllr John Cox acting as substitute.

Cllr Martin Kitts-Hayes said: “We all agree that tourism is very important to the economy of Aberdeenshire and in some parts, it is critical.”

Councillors recognised that pressures being felt by the region’s hotels as a result of the declining oil price could present a significant opportunity to stimulate the tourism offering of the region.