Auditor citicises underspend

Speaking following Thursday’s Aberdeenshire Council meeting, which approved an auditor’s report which made criticisms of the council’s £25m underspend, SNP Shadow Council Leader Hamish Vernal said: “I’m pleased that councillors from all sides have accepted the conclusions of this report. Hopefully, this means we’ll hear no more disingenuous statements from the ‘Alliance’ administration about their underspend being a good thing arising thanks to their sound financial stewardship.

“The consequences of this underspend have been a series of cuts to services which have been tougher and deeper than they needed to be.

“Regrettably, another unintended consequence of the underspend has been to hole below the waterline what was previously a compelling case for improving Aberdeenshire’s share of central government revenue funding.

“The Aberdeenshire ‘Fairshare’ campaign, if not quite dead in the water, is now in desperate need of resuscitation, for which the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have only themselves to blame.”

Prior to the meeting, Cllr Vernal, called for an apology from the Leader and Depute Leader of the ‘Aberdeenshire Alliance’, following the critical report.

The Alliance Administration has made much of monies being provided to fund communities under its ‘100 Day Pledge’ which came from last year’s underspend of £25 million under a Liberal Democrat/Conservative administration, attributing this sum to the proceeds of ‘careful management’ of resources.

The 55 page report identified several areas of concern regarding the failure to spend budgeted resources, which include a £1.8m spending shortfall on permanent teachers; £1m in relation to vacant posts regarding the provision of home care for older people; a further £1.2m earmarked for economic growth which went unspent; alongside a failure to spend nearly £33m from the £107m capital budget set aside for infrastructure improvements such as school building and road repairs.

Councillor Vernal, said that the report left the political leadership of past and present administrations “cruelly exposed”, and called on the Council’s Leader and Depute Leader – both members of the previous administration - to apologise for misleading the people of Aberdeenshire regarding the underspend.

“The objective of any council should be to run a balanced budget, rather than to over or underspend”, he said.