Aberdeenshire Council has agreed its budget for 2017/18 which will see support for local services worth £546 million.
Council Co-Leader and Aberdeenshire Labour Group Leader, Alison Evison, proposed the motion to agree the budget proposals.
She said: “We must balance our responsibility for the delivery of these services, alongside the very real challenge of dealing with increasing costs, greater pressures on our services and a reducing financial settlement from the Scottish Government.“
“The budget of our Labour/SNP led Administration, was based on putting local people and families first and responding to what they told us about the importance of council services.
“In the context of having to make £24 million of savings, we followed the sensible approach of looking first for efficiencies, second for possible service redesign, and only in the last resort did we consider cutting services. This was a hugely different approach from that of the Tory and Lib Dem opposition, whose budget proposals included brutal cuts in service to areas such as education and libraries, road maintenance and waste collection.”
“I’m pleased that we have been able to set a visionary budget which supports and develops education. Teachers, special education teachers, and pupil support assistants were all protected. In addition, we set up a £350,000 fund to assist in the recruitment of teachers and early years practitioners. We have retained the budget for libraries, arts and heritage and also for school music. We are keeping open school swimming pools which the Tories and Lib Dems would have shut. We have even put more money into youth work and sports development. The Tories and Lib Dems were slashing funding on early years education and child-care, but we have retained that budget.”
“We have listened carefully to local businesses about the impact of business rates revaluations. We have therefore set up a £3 million Enabling Fund from which we will be able to provide support to businesses as appropriate. The precise use of this fund will be decided at Full Council on March 9,” Alison added.
“In addition to this, we have responded to the need to support the diversification of the local economy into areas like tourism, given the impact of the oil and gas downturn. Our budget has set up a £250,000 fund to develop the tourist assets managed by Aberdeenshire Council, in order to encourage more visitors into the area and hence increase spend. This is a creative and positive use of the council’s resources which will help to maintain jobs.”
“Many people across this area have told us of the importance of road maintenance and so we have secured that budget. The Tories and Lib Dems would have reduced road maintenance by a million pounds. Our budget also put £150,000 into active travel to support walking and cycling, a key area omitted from the Tory/LibDem budget. We opted to keep waste collections, including local garden waste collections, whereas the opposition budget would also have seen these cut.”
“It was really important to us to support health and social care provision within our communities, and we have maximised the money available for this.”
“We knew that to deliver the services which people had told us they needed and valued, while receiving a reduced grant settlement from the Scottish Government, we would have to end the council tax freeze. After much reflection, we have therefore increased council tax by 2.5%. This will help us deliver services now, protect jobs and strengthen Aberdeenshire’s resilience for the future.”