Aberdeenshire Council has set its budget for 2012/13 and agreed revenue budgets through to 2016/17 on a provisional basis.
In agreeing the £548 million budget, councillors agreed a series of Scottish Government policy initiatives including a council tax freeze for 2012/13, maintaining police and teacher numbers, a contribution to Change Funds and a re-profiling of capital funding.
The leader of the council, Cllr Anne Robertson announced proposals for improvements to services to support the challenges of early intervention and demography. £300,000 will be invested to establish a homelessness prevention team to focus specifically on reducing homeless presentations and the council’s use of bed and breakfast.
The council will also invest £900,000 to support a joint project between Education and Social Work to increase the council’s capacity to support children with complex needs to stay in Aberdeenshire, rather than move out of authority to less appropriate, or often more expensive arrangements.
In addition, £1million will be invested in road maintenance and a further £1million into the council’s repairs and maintenance programme, to focus on a smaller number of buildings and enhanced customer service by the provision of modern, flexible working environments.
The leader also advised that future budgets would deliver investment in priority projects, whilst any budget pressures would be met through efficiencies.
The budget was seconded by Cllr Jim Gifford, vice-chair of the Policy & Resources Committee. He welcomed the approach to long-term financial planning taken by the council and supported the proposals that future financial challenges would be focused through efficiencies, rather than service cuts.
Cllr Fergus Hood presented the SNP alternate budget, which put forward funding priority proposals to invest in sheltered housing schemes and community transport. There was also a proposal to invest in improvements to the inspection regime of roads repairs by third party contractors and service companies, and to enhance council systems to embrace new technology.
As a one-off, it was also proposed to provide an additional year of funding for grant aid, to enable local groups to become sustainable and fully consider their business plans. The proposal was seconded by Cllr Strathdee.
Cllr Robertson said: “It is fitting that I present a five year revenue budget which demonstrates the long-term approach to the financial stability of Aberdeenshire Council.
“We still face significant reductions in funding over the next five to ten years and we must prepare ourselves for that eventuality now.
”The budget puts early intervention, demography and economic development at its heart, through prioritised service delivery, partnership working and is supported by a dedicated and professional workforce.
“The proposed budget puts this council on a very sound financial footing for the future.”
The administration budget was supported 36 votes for the motion, 25 for the SNP’s amendment and three no votes.