Aberdeenshire council tax could rise by up to 3%

Councillors will decide the budget at Aberdeenshire Council headquarters Woodhill House next week.

Councillors in Aberdeenshire will vote next week on whether to raise council tax across all bands by 3%.

The finance settlement from the Scottish Government, which was announced in December, saw Aberdeenshire Council given a revenue budget allocation of £403.767 million, or £2.219m below the provisional budgeted expectation.

The proposed settlement means Aberdeenshire remains the third lowest funded local authority in Scotland when compared to the average funding per head of population.

Proposed savings include reducing the number of janitors across the region’s schools, cutting the opening hours of sports centres and reducing pupil support assistant numbers.

These figures do not include additional funding which is yet to be announced at a local authority level, however, any additional funding is likely to be matched with additional expenditure in order to deliver the service.

Aberdeen-shire has proposed increasing council tax by 3% for 2018/19.

A report by Alan Wood, the council’s head of finance, said: “The proposed budget for 2018/19 includes a provision for a council tax rise across all bands of 3%.

“For each 1% rise in council tax it is assumed that an additional £1.3m in income can be collected.

“These measures combine to produce a total budgeted council tax income figure of £137.825m for 2018/19.”

Proposed council tax figures from Aberdeenshire Council if figures are set to rise.

Potential savings indicated in the proposed budget include a £1.2m cut to nursery education.

Of this total, £90,000 could be saved by increasing charges for children in out of school care clubs.

A further £3.2m has been identified from the secondary education budget with expected savings of £350,000 reducing pupil support assistants.

Other savings proposals include a total of £1.5m from sports and leisure management. £260,000 could be saved with the implementation of a revised pricing policy, £121,000 by carrying out a review at school pools and £350,000 by making further restrictions in the opening hours of sports centres and a “significant reduction” in library provision.

The local authority has also identified £200,000 in savings by reducing the number of janitorial and catering staff as vacancies arise.

On the potential savings included within his report, Mr Wood, said: “Notwithstanding the impact on residents of Aberdeenshire, it is also recognised that the implementation of the identified budget savings may result in a reduction in employee numbers across some council services.”

Meanwhile, Aberdeen City Council voted in favour of changing the date of its budget meeting from February 19 to March 6.

A report, which was considered by members of the urgent business committee on Thursday, said: “As the Scottish Government moves the 2018/19 budget through the parliamentary process, we have been advised that while the budget will be presented to parliament on February 21, as previously announced, it is likely the revised settlement letter will not be available until March 1.

“The current budget meeting date is such that council will be faced with making decisions and setting its 2018/19 budget without the Scottish Government budget having been passed through the parliamentary process and without being in receipt of final settlement figures.”

The report added that moving the date to March would provide “sufficient time” to incorporate the detail of the revised settlement while ensuring the council remains within its statutory timescales for setting its budget.

As reported in yesterday’s Evening Express, the city council has agreed to write to the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) noting their “dissatisfaction” with their proposed settlement and urging them to reject it.

A meeting has also been called for between council group leaders and COSLA before the Scottish budget is agreed to push for a “fairer settlement”.

The local authority –which is the lowest funded council in Scotland – is set to see its revenue grant reduced by £22m.

The council has said that it will be forced to look at cuts to some of its “vital services”.