22 November 2019

Aberdeenshire Council November round-up

The full meeting of Aberdeenshire Council on Thursday, November 21, 2019 considered a wide range of matters ranging from the circular economy, corporate parenting and budget engagement to proposed changes to its Scheme of Governance and licensing board structure.

Opportunity North East presentation – Transformational Change

Chief Executive Jennifer Craw and Patrick Machray OBE, chair of ONE Food, Drink and Agriculture, gave a detailed overview on the private sector-driven initiative.

ONE supports an array of innovative initiatives in five key industries – oil and gas, food, drink and agriculture, life sciences, tourism and digital – to maximise the opportunities within the energy sector and broaden the economy by facilitating and investing in the target sectors.
Planning application – Smallburn, Clola

Councillors rejected plans for the formation of a 3-caravan private Gypsy/Travellers site on land at Smallburn, Clola.

The council’s Buchan Area Committee recently supported planning service recommendations for refusal when it was asked for its views.

During a detailed discussion at full council, councillors heard that the proposal did not provide suitable services in that the proposed drainage solution had not been demonstrated to be adequate and was also within 50 metres of a neighbouring water supply.
It had not been demonstrated that the system would not cause a negative impact on the health of the occupiers of the adjoining property.

An amendment was made by Cllr Martin Ford for a time-limited deferral to enable the applicant to provide the necessary information on water supply and drainage.

Councillors voted 37-22 in favour of the motion to refuse.

Circular economy commitment

Councillors gave their unanimous backing to the council’s formal commitment to a resources and circular economy.

The strategy, which is being supported by Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan and Circular Economy Strategy, aims to revolutionise the way in which products are designed, used, reused, repaired and recycled.

The Resources and Circular Economy Commitment has been carefully developed to provide clear direction for the local authority as it strives for greater sustainability and responsibility in the way it considers, purchases and manages physical resources, and towards supporting a more circular economy.

Head of Economic Development Belinda Miller said the council, building on commitments within its Environmental and Climate Change Policy, recognised that it has a duty to support and lead in the transition to a circular economy both locally and nationally.

Following discussion, the report will be updated to include risks identified at Communities Committee and the report will be referred to IJB to continue dialogue and agree any contribution to be made.

Financial performance

Councillors considered and agreed the quarterly financial performance positions for both revenue expenditure and the capital budget up to September 30, 2019.

Head of Finance Alan Wood said that during the second quarter of the financial year, the Council had spent £283million out of a budget of £578million, or 48.9% after six months.

At this point last year, the percentage spent was 49.8%, therefore the current expenditure is on a similar path to last year.

Mr Wood said that while spending was very much in line with last year, the same strong focus on expenditure management by directors and officers would be required.

In terms of the capital budget position, councillors were told that during the second quarter of the financial year the council had spent £35,894,000 of the revised budget of £169,014,000 or 21% after six months. At this point last year, the percentage spent was 27%.

Medium-term financial strategy

The public has been thanked by councillors for participating in a recent budget engagement exercise as part of the council’s medium-term financial strategy.
An online budget simulator was used to allow participants to attempt to set their own version of the council’s budget. 

The approach inspired insightful responses by giving members of the public opportunity to get a better understanding of the budget, and the difficult choices and pressures facing the authority.

During debate, Cllr Gifford stressed that, despite the uncertainty surrounding the final budget settlement from the Scottish Government, the authority would ensure Council Tax and Housing Rents were set at the February meeting of Aberdeenshire Council.

In a motion, he added an additional recommendation to instruct officers to identify a new date for a council meeting before the end of March 2020 if required, to set the council’s revenue budget, reserves, capital plan and carbon budget.

After discussion, a three-point joint motion was proposed by Cllrs Richard Thomson and Martin Ford which asked the Council to note the commitment in the Scottish Government's Programme for Government to seeing one percent of local government budgets being spent through participatory budgeting and request that officers report to the February 2020 council meeting on how continued progress might be made towards achieving that target in Aberdeenshire.
It also asked the council to repeat the budget simulator engagement exercise next year and to agree that all political groups be given the opportunity to present draft budget proposals to next November’s full council meeting and public consultation to take place thereafter on specific budget options.

The motion  was carried after a 34-25 vote and acknowledges the progress made to-date on the medium-term financial strategy, acknowledges the results from the budget engagement exercise and instructs officers to identify a new date for a council meeting before the end of March 2020 if required, to set the council’s revenue budget, reserves, capital plan and carbon budget.

Corporate parenting annual review

Councillors gave a very warm welcome to the annual report on the council’s Corporate Parenting Plan.

The report outlined the progress made by Aberdeenshire Council and partners who work collaboratively to improve outcomes for care experienced young people.

The report demonstrated the strong ongoing commitment to listening to care experienced young people to ensure that lived experience directs and influences service design and provision.

Following discussion, councillors agreed that the annual reports be circulated to a wider forum including IJB, Criminal Justice Board, Community Planning Board and other appropriate organisations with a view to sharing information on work being undertaken by the authority and encouraging those organisations to share information on how they intend to meet their obligations in this connection.

Arrangements are also to be put in place at an appropriate time to invite young people to be represented at and deliver a presentation to full council on their projects and activities.

Scheme of Governance

Aberdeenshire Council is to receive further information on proposed changes to its Scheme of Governance following discussion by councillors.

The changes – relating to such matters as standing orders, committee powers, delegations and financial regulations – will be subject to a further report for discussion at a meeting of the full council in January.

Children’s Panel Area Support Team nomination

Cllr Gillian Owen was nominated and unanimously appointed as a member of the group in an observer capacity.

Licensing Structure Review

Aberdeenshire Council has agreed to undertake a review of its licensing board
structure which will include public consultation.

There are currently three divisional licensing boards performing the statutory licensing function in north, central and south Aberdeenshire.

The council established a single licensing forum in 2018 which has proved successful, with better attendance, savings in administrative costs along with time and travel savings for participants.

The review of the licensing board structure will investigate whether there would be resource savings with a different structure, both financially and in terms of time spent.
Other matters
Provost Bill Howatson paid tribute to a number of achievements by Aberdeenshire Council, its staff and residents. He was personally honoured to visit the National Army Museum in London to receive the Gold Award in the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme on behalf of the authority.

• The council’s transportation strategy team won the ‘Excellence in Cycling and Walking’ category in the National Transport Awards earlier this month. They were also successful in the Scottish Transport Awards, winning the ‘Excellence in walking, public realm and cycling’ category for the same project

• The Provost also wished the council the best of luck on December 4 when the Ballater Old Royal Station project will be a contender in the National Rail Heritage Awards in London

• Two charities – Grampian Child Bereavement Network and North Aberdeenshire Food Bank – will share a £1,000 windfall after Marie Johnstone from the council’s waste team won a prize draw at a waste management conference in which she and colleague Claire Loney participated

• There were also congratulations for chartered accountant Kimberley Oliver who recently won the coveted ‘Woman in Finance Award’ at this year’s Businesswomen Scotland Awards in Glasgow. The former Portlethen Academy and RGU student founded Xenith Financial 2016 following the oil and gas downturn

You can see all the reports to the committee on the Aberdeenshire Council website.
The meeting was webcast and you can view a recording of proceedings online.