Aberdeenshire Council sets its budget for 2016/17

Almost £700 million of funding for local services in Aberdeenshire has been agreed by councillors for 2016/17.

At a meeting of full council, budgets for the year ahead were agreed with £533 million for revenue, £100 million for capital programmes, and £60 million for housing. The council holds £46 million in reserves, which councillors earmarked for specific projects and priorities.

In order to receive the total funding announced through the Scottish Government financial settlement for 2016/17, councillors formally supported the funding package and conditions which will see an additional £250 million transfer from NHS to health and social care partnerships; to maintain teacher numbers at 2015 levels nationally and secure places for all probationers who require one under the teacher induction scheme; and to freeze council tax for a ninth year.

Aberdeenshire Council’s revenue funding has reduced by 1.45%, the lowest reduction in percentage terms for a Scottish Local Authority, or £6.39 million for 2016/17. This compares with a national average reduction of 3.90%.

Councillors were told that savings of £28 million had been identified for the year ahead by taking a more business-focused approach to running local services. The savings package includes increased charges for some services, more efficient ways of delivering services, management and administrative reviews, shared services, better procurement, investment in technology and the rationalisation and disposal of council buildings.

Councillors agreed a range of reserves totalling £46 million, to include the creation of five reserves to support key priorities. This will see £5 million set aside for regeneration, £4 million for affordable housing, £2 million on renewable energy, £5 million for the City Region Deal and £1 million for capital projects.

In recommending the budget Co-Leader Cllr Martin Kitts-Hayes acknowledged the contribution of the Aberdeenshire Council workforce saying: “I have mentioned the importance, value and respect that we have for Aberdeenshire Council colleagues and therefore the 2016/17 revenue budget will have a minimal impact on jobs.

“Whilst we operate in an area with relatively low unemployment and therefore have relative security of employment, we can and should continue to be innovative and dynamic in our approach to service delivery. We will ensure employees are treated fairly and with respect.”

Despite the agreement of only a one year revenue budget, indicative future years were also highlighted which forecast further pressures on council budgets. These projections have been developed through a Medium Term Financial Strategy which considers the cost of delivering services, savings options and new ways of working.

Cllr Kitts-Hayes recommended that further draft budget proposals be considered by council in the autumn to enable detailed consultation prior to budget setting in February 2017.

In supporting the revenue budget, Co-Leader Cllr Richard Thomson stressed the significant budget that the council has to deliver public services in Aberdeenshire. “We are investing almost £700 million into local services, with an ambitious Capital Plan, continuation of the excellent local services we provide and for 2016/17 we are committed to making progress towards the delivery of our priorities.

“This includes investment in active travel, building more affordable homes, the Aberdeen City Region Deal, climate change, estate rationalisation, regeneration and a new community campus at Peterhead.”

Recommending the Housing Revenue Account, Cllr Anne Allan highlighted the commitment to meet the Energy Efficiency Standard for Social Housing and the new initiatives to tackle the housing shortage in the region.

She said: “We achieved Scottish Housing Quality Standard by March 2015 and our house modernisation programme continues apace. We are forecasting spend of over £27m in the current year on capital projects including replacement kitchens, bathrooms, windows/doors heating systems and insulation projects. We are also progressing new build housing developments at Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Inverurie. 

“We remain hopeful following recent Government announcements on the City Region Deal and additional funding from the Scottish Government that, in conjunction with our partners, we can identify further opportunities to deliver more affordable housing.”

The 2016/17 budget was informed through an engagement exercise which took place at the end of 2015, resulting in over 1,300 responses to a survey to seek the views of Aberdeenshire communities and employees around budget proposals set out at the full council meeting held in November 2015.

It asked a range of questions from council tax, to charging for services, generating income through selling advertising on vehicles and developing renewable energy projects. It also gave people the opportunity to give their ideas and suggestions for how savings could be made by the council.