Workshops help to explain how council spends money

Deputy Leader Councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes: "The workshops have been very useful in giving members a deeper understanding of the way the council operates financially..."
Deputy Leader Councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes: "The workshops have been very useful in giving members a deeper understanding of the way the council operates financially..."

Councillors have been taking part in financial workshops run by Aberdeenshire Council to ensure members have the most up-to-date information on the way the authority spends its budget.

This approach was taken following a discussion at the council meeting in June to work more closely with the authority’s finance service and keep members informed of budgeting throughout the year.

Councillors have been provided with detailed information on the authority’s annual accounts (2011/12) which will be reported to the meeting of Aberdeenshire Council next month (September 27).

In addition members are being briefed on the latest revenue budget monitoring report which highlights that the local authority is forecasting to remain 1.5% or £8.5 million within budget at the end of the year based upon June 2012 information.

Leader of Aberdeenshire Council Councillor Jim Gifford said: “Council officers continue to drive forward innovation to help protect the long term budget and stable financial position of the authority.

“Key services continue to be delivered from our substantial budget of £548million and the council is finding new ways of doing things whether it is asking the community to take on assets or creating central service points and reducing office space.

“We set our budget over five years rather than one to ensure we are prepared for future challenges and we will continue to take the long term view whilst keeping an eye on short term gains.

“Our capital programme of building schools, care homes and delivering road maintenance will continue and is bolstered by any savings made from our revenue account.”

Deputy Leader Councillor Martin Kitts-Hayes added: “The workshops have been very useful in giving members a deeper understanding of the way the council operates financially. The authority has also carried out community engagement events which will be taking place again this year and allows residents to gain the same insights into how the council spends their money and why.

“All of this ensures we all work together better for Aberdeenshire.”

Independents’ Co-ordinator Councillor Norman Smith said: “It is right that the local authority is open about its budget and that members are able to scrutinise every aspect to ensure the council offers value for money and provides services that residents want within the resources available.”

Recent resident satisfaction survey shows that almost three quarters of Aberdeenshire residents feel that Aberdeenshire Council is efficient, well run and its services are value for money.

Head of finance Alan Wood said: “Aberdeenshire Council has remained within budget in every financial year but one since reorganisation in 1996, thus demonstrating consistent and controlled financial management.

“This tends to be within 1 or 2% of budget, which means that we are still spending 98p in every pound on Aberdeenshire services.

“Any underspend in a financial year is considered against the council’s strategic priorities and future financial climate and then allocated accordingly.”

A report on budget monitoring for July will be reported to the Policy & Resources Committee on September 20.