Crisis facing council

Today we had a meeting of the full Aberdeenshire Council, dominated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Alan Wood, the head of finance, told councillors we are facing a financial crisis.

He said there is a fundamental need now to prepare a revised medium-term financial strategy response to the circumstances created as a result of the pandemic. This is classed as a financial crisis because:
• Quarter 1 is predicting an £8.5 million loss in income and increased costs which may result in an annual deficit in excess of £30 million.
• As this is anticipated to be a sustained position, it will likely take more than one financial year to resolve.
• Without action, this would require the use of 70% of council reserves.

Further financial support from the Scottish Government is not certain. Capital plans will have to reviewed. All services will now be reviewed, according to chief executive Jim Savege.

Council leader Cllr Jim Gifford said the report before councillors makes grim reading. It is unlike anything the council has ever faced. All aspects of our finances need to be looked at.

Deputy leader Cllr Peter Argyle said we need to work together to work our way through this. Reflecting on his 21 years as a councillor, he said nothing comes close to what we are facing now.

Cllr Anne Stirling said doing nothing is not an option.

A cross-party working group of councillors – a recovery reference group – has been set up.

The losses are said to have been incurred as a direct result of the council’s response to “keep people safe” during the pandemic, which has included the creation of childcare hubs for the children of key workers, provision of free school meals, and the closure of sports and leisure facilities.

Councillors agreed to the recommendations from officers by 58 votes to 4.

The reports – and a recording of the full meeting – can be viewed here:

12 thoughts on “Crisis facing council

  1. Aye Kenso says:

    Here we go. Council will be coming cap in hand soon. Coking the books again to rationalise yet another maximum price hike

    • ianmollison says:

      If you have any evidence that council officers have been cooking the books then please present that to the auditors or indeed the police.

  2. Ian Bennett says:

    Hello Ian
    Given that we have had very few council services since 23 rd March and I assume all staff were furloughed e.g All grass cutting and ground maintenance, all swimming pool staff, all teaching assistants etc .lollipop people, all library staff, all registrar staff ,all road maintenance staff ( plus all raw material costs) , recycle centre staff etc etc etc.
    Capital costs were presumably nil. Senior citizen bus pass costs virtually nil.
    I assumed we were all due a rebate not a begging bowl.

    • Aye Kenso says:

      The council.
      If you gave them a fiver they’d start a project, spend it, and then start to formulate the project goal.
      Coronavirus is just another convenient excuse they’ve been waiting for, to again, hide their continued mismanagement of public funds.
      This council has had it easy during the pandemic, imagine what it would have been like if we’d had similar case numbers as the regions down south

    • ianmollison says:

      No staff have been furloughed.

      Many have been reassigned to other duties while others have been working from home, such as registrars and teachers. In fact the registrars’ service has expanded to providing a seven day a week service in order to cope with the expected increase in deaths. Staff have been switched to keeping the bin collection service running as normal (not all councils did that). Some staff have been reassigned to burials duties. Others have been staffing the coronavirus assistance hub phone lines. And so on. Just because you don’t see services doesn’t mean they are not there!

      I should also add that some members of staff have been on sick leave (affected by the virus and otherwise) or have been shielding others.

      Income is also down, understandably, as is stated in the article.

      So instead of residents receiving a rebate as you would wish (and who doesn’t prefer smaller bills?!), it will be more likely a cut in services will follow later in the year.

      It isn’t a begging bowl, it is reality.

  3. David Michael Lansdell says:

    When you are talking Government, local or otherwise they all cry poverty, while wasting money on pet projects.. the next cry will be increase council tax.
    I wonder how many public sector people have been laid off or made redundant. As for them being furloughed, they are paid out of tax money in the first place, so its a win win for them. The excuses for not being able to deliver services will be many faceted and numerous.

  4. Richard Jachnik says:

    Ian, given that 24% is council tax, what proportion of that is never actually collected because home owners default on payments? It is about time a complete review is made of council tax bands and the council should lobby the S. Gov on this aspect as they are completely out of date and were not intended to be set in stone for the duration they have currently existed. Non payments should be brought to court as matter of routine and bailiffs brought in if necessary. Grants and awards are significantly more than the covid shortfall. Council should cut cloth accordingly as a recession is for every one- council finances included.

  5. gladys mccarthy says:

    I’ve read that some major councils in England are likely to declare themselves bankrupt, it’s all very worrying but we are living in unprecedented times and surely both Westminster and Edinburgh will have to help councils or devolved governments in some way. Adding to the already high council tax burden for people who may now be unemployed or in fear of this happening is not an option and since all services have been cut to the bone already the government is going to have to come to the assistance of cash strapped councils and hopefully both Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire councils are already making overtures to Edinburgh.

    • ianmollison says:

      You are right – these are worrying times. Aberdeenshire Council is making overtures to the Scottish Government through the local government body Cosla.

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