Aberdeenshire opposition councillors say their budget would have supported the workforce

The opposition partnership on Aberdeenshire Council – comprising SNP, Labour and Communities – insist their budget proposals would have supported and protected the local authority’s workforce.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 6:20 am
Councillors Gwyneth Petrie (SNP) and Alison Evison (Labour) believe their budget proposals would have better served the people of Aberdeenshire.

Their proposals were rejected at last week’s budget meeting, with the Conservative-led administration’s budget coming out on top.

But the opposition partnership believes its alternative budget would have provided a better basis for recovery from the pandemic, community empowerment and support for the workforce of the council.

Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Gwyneth Petrie (SNP) said: “Our budget proposals gave a real commitment to listening to and empowering the voices of our communities, whilst taking steps to protect and support our workforce.

“The last year has been particularly difficult for those living throughout Aberdeenshire, and our budget avoided any savings which would cause further unnecessary hardship or negative impacts for them.

“There were a number of areas of similarity across the three budgets proposed, which is reflective of the situation we find ourselves in. There are, however, also some clear differences between our budget and the administration’s budget, and it is disappointing that we will now see financial savings against our workforce, a drop in the maintenance of our outdoor recreation spaces and a reduction in the revenue funding for flood works in particular.”

Cllr Petrie did, however, welcome the inclusion of the two new primary schools in the captial plan, but expressed reservations over the funding mechanism.

She added: “Our budgetary proposals were focussed on making the best of the money we have, and not about planning the spend of money we do not yet have. In these times of great uncertainty, we felt it too difficult to commit to that level of further spend.

“We do welcome commitments of others to work together going forward – and we give the same commitment in return. Through joint working and collaboration, we can make the biggest difference to those we represent.”

Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Cllr Alison Evison (Labour) agreed that recovery was a common feature in all the budget proposals, but there were clear differences about how to get there.

“Our priority was to make the best use of the money we have to support the well-being of our communities both socially and economically now,” she said.

"We recognise that our local communities and businesses have had a year of challenges, and that different people have felt the impacts differently, with inequalities being magnified for some. We focused on a budget which would foster renewal, enable social interaction again and rebuild essential confidence, avoiding savings which we thought would only bring more uncertainty and anxiety.

“We wanted to empower our communities to be able to take more control of the decisions that impact their local area, to make the choices that will shape their locality, to give voice to lived experience, to work with third sector partners on local projects, and so we are very disappointed that our proposal to create funding to enable this to happen was rejected.

“Our budget proposals were also about working with our staff to shape the council as it moves forward and we rejected savings based on a review of terms and conditions. We recognise the leadership role the council should show in promoting fair work as a major local employer.”