Councillors today agreed how Aberdeenshire will spend its money over the coming years.
North Kincardine councillor Ian Mollison explains: “We agreed a budget of £517 million for 2014/15 on how we run day-to-day front-line services. That’s everything from providing carers, emptying bins, paying staff, to fixing the roads. The Press and Journal ran a scare story the other day about cuts. There are none at this time.
“However, we don’t know for certain what grants we will get further in the future from the Scottish Government. These grants become more and more important the longer that council tax is frozen (that was agreed too today). The council’s cost are continuing to rise as well. So the best estimate from our financial team is that there could be a £49m hole in the budget by 2018/19. We are preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. There’s no hiding the fact that very serious challenges could lie ahead. But not this coming year.
“Councillors also agreed the capital plan. This is good news. This year we are spending £100m. Over the coming years it is the investment totals some £800m, unrivalled across Scotland.
“New academies/community campuses in Laurencekirk, Ellon and Alford; care homes in Stonehaven and Inverurie; and new primary schools including Hillside (£11m), Drumoak, Kintore, Turriff, Inverurie and Kinellar. Two new children’s homes, a family centre at Inverurie and new leisure facilities at Banchory and Banff/Macduff are also included.
“We will also be paying £75 million maximum for the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, which will be financed through £30 million of budgeted expenditure and anticipated borrowing of £45 million.
“More than £20 million is being spent on improving our council housing in 2014-15, with £24.6m earmarked for new builds (meaning 169 programmed for completion by April next year).
“Councillors also agreed to a 4.5% increase in council house rent charges from 1 April 2014. The current average weekly rent is £60.19. This decision will increase the rent by £2.71. Funds raised through rents are ploughed back into the housing stock.
“All the decisions were agreed by all parties – Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Labour, SNP and independents. There only two dissenting voices: the lone Green and an independent.”