Aberdeenshire’s administration has given itself 100 days to bring forward six key areas for development.
Investment in towns and villages, assistance to small and medium sized business and a focus on tourism and the hospitality industry are expected to provide ‘a much-needed boost’to the local economy.
The administration has also committed to increasing pre-school and nursery provision and increasing care at home services for older people and accelerating plans to improve roads, provide affordable housing and replace schools and care homes.
The announcement comes as the Aberdeenshire Alliance launches its vision for the next five years, with a cash injection provided to each of the six development areas. The money will come from one-off savings that the council has generated over the last 12 months.
Savings of £11million were announced by the council in April, and as the end of year accounts are being finalised, the savings are larger than were forecast in April – with possibly as much as £20 million of savings being made by the council through on-going efficiency projects.
In May, the Aberdeenshire Alliance was formed to take on the administration of Aberdeenshire Council. It has set out its programme of work which reflects the main priorities for the council over the next five years.
Leader of the Council, Cllr Jim Gifford said: “In developing our five year plan, we have listened to what our residents are telling us they want to see happen. We believe that Aberdeenshire Council is widely recognised as an effective, efficient and responsible local authority. We want to build on this and continue to deliver excellent local services to and for our residents.
“The 100 day pledge demonstrates that we mean business. The projects we’ve chosen will make an important contribution to kick-start the economy, and respond to issues that we know are important to local people.”
The key areas for a cash investment as part of the 100 day pledge are:
Invest in our towns and villages – creating better places to live and work
Provide assistance to small and medium sized businesses – helping our economy to flourish
Boost the tourism and hospitality industries – attracting visitors and inward investment to the area
Increase pre-school and nursery provision – improving the life chances of all children
Increase care at home services for older people – more choices, better quality of support
Accelerate plans to improve roads, provide affordable housing and replace schools and care homes.
Officers will draw up proposals for each of the development areas and these will be presented at the next meeting of full council on 28th June.
Deputy Leader of the Council, Cllr Martin Kitts-Hayes said: “This is an exciting programme which directly reflects what local people are telling us are their priorities.
“We are committed to building on the strong reputation we have as a council that is responsive to the needs of our communities. I believe that the 100 day pledge will up the pace of change in the areas of greatest need.”
Co-ordinator of the Independent Group Cllr Norman Smith added: “I believe that this is a strong programme of work that will deliver tangible improvements to communities right across Aberdeenshire.
“We want our council services to be the best available and this programme will support us on that journey.”
Commenting on the five year plan, SNP Group Leader Cllr Joanna Strathdee (Huntly, Strathbogie & Howe of Alford) said:“The SNP manifesto – which the electorate supported in great numbers, making us the largest party on Aberdeenshire Council with 41% of the seats – contained radical ideas for town centre regeneration. I am therefore pleased that the Conservative-led coalition are taking this forward as one of their priorities.
“It is disappointing however that when so many ‘savings’ have been found in the council budget that no mention has been made by the coalition of revisiting the cuts to sheltered housing services. This was a major issue during the election and the SNP pledged to instigate a review as there is clearly great unhappiness among sheltered housing residents at the cuts to their service provision.
“The SNP Group in Aberdeenshire has shown it is a constructive opposition and will support good ideas which make life better for our citizens regardless of which party proposes them. I hope the administration parties will view suggestions we will be taking forward in the same light.”