27 November 2020

Aberdeenshire Council remains committed to supporting rural partnerships over next two years

Aberdeenshire Council remains committed to supporting the region’s rural partnerships over the next two years and will assist them to become financially self-financing in the longer-term.

The six Aberdeenshire Rural Partnerships in Banff and Buchan, Buchan, Formartine, Garioch, Kincardine and Mearns and Marr continue to play a key role in developing and engaging communities in their areas, providing advice and support services to third sector organisations – never more so than during the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each of the partnerships has developed its own business and delivery model, with some being part of much wider area-based partnerships which deliver a range of voluntary services and access multiple funding streams.

Others are principally funded by the council’s Economic Development Service grant which is often topped-up with a smaller amount from the local Area Committee to deliver a core service offer of funding advice, capacity building and support for community planning.

However, with the council facing significant financial pressures and challenges, the service has had to review the areas of activities which can be supported and reflect on the change of focus in response to Covid-19 and community resilience in the future.

Members of the authority’s Infrastructure Services Committee yesterday (Thur, Nov 26, 2020) agreed that £22,500 be allocated to each partnership in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

Matt Lockley, Economic Development service manager, explained: “Since January, we have been carefully considering how we can continue to support the longer-term financial sustainability of the partnerships, recognising that we are facing our own financial pressures.

“While we are no longer able to continue funding the partnerships at the current level in the medium to long term, we remain strongly committed to supporting these organisations through a range of mechanisms to ensure they can become self-financing.”

Chair of the council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, Cllr Peter Argyle, said: “It is very important to stress that we are not simply abandoning our rural partnerships – if we had the choice and financial flexibility we would certainly not be doing this. However, given the significant financial challenges the council is facing, it has had to make tough decisions across many services and activities.

“We most certainly do not underestimate the value these partnerships bring to our communities and our economic development officers will continue to work with them to identify new business models and funding streams to help ensure our residents and groups continue to benefit from the tremendous knowledge and assistance which these bodies offer.”

Vice-chair Cllr John Cox added: “Retaining the status quo is simply not an option for the council. These partnerships are a vital piece of support within our communities and we will continue to work closely with them to investigate new sources of funding and self-generated income over the coming months and years to ensure they become even stronger within the communities they support.”