Aberdeenshire Council adopts new charging framework

Aberdeenshire Council has adopted a new Corporate Charging Framework, paving the way for greater consistency of charges levied by the council, as well as supporting the delivery of the Council’s strategic priorities and plans through a vital income stream.

Fees and charges contribute in the region of £40 million to the Council’s budget – and cover items such as use of leisure facilities, bulk waste uplift and trade waste collections, music tuition, school meals, care services and burial charges for example.

The new framework was developed using information from a Scrutiny & Audit investigation in 2014, which was based on an Audit Scotland national report.

The investigation found that there was no consistency in the previous arrangements for setting charges across the Council and recommended the creation of a corporate charging framework.

The framework sets out the process for charges to be considered, implemented and reviewed on a regular basis. The charging policy requires fees and charges to be agreed as part of the council’s medium term financial strategy, be benchmarked against other public sector bodies and, where appropriate, the private and voluntary sectors. It also should be supported by consultation and for the ability of residents to pay and any concessions to be part of the decision-making process.

The principle of generating more income for Aberdeenshire Council has been included in the medium term financial strategy with many of the budget savings proposing the generation of additional income.

It has also received public support with over 60% of respondents to the recent budget engagement survey agreeing with the statement: “I would be prepared to pay more for a service if it would prevent that service being reduced/discontinued. This may mean, for instance, paying more for services such as leisure activities, care at home and trade waste.”

When bringing forward proposals for charging, committee will consider a range of factors, including why the charge is being set, the cost of providing the service, rationale for concessions, benchmarking information, feedback from consultation, implications on service users, implications on the demand for the service and how charges will be collected.

Co-Leader Cllr Martin Kitts-Hayes said: “It is essential that fees and charges keep pace with the cost of delivering local services to local people, as such we’ve made a commitment that fees and charges are benchmarked and regularly reviewed.”

Co-Leader Cllr Richard Thomson added: “This framework will support us in delivering a consistent approach to charging, whilst also acknowledging the importance of concessions. There should be no barriers to residents accessing our services and ability to pay is a fundamental consideration."