All debt recovery by the local authority is to be suspended in Aberdeen until the start of May.
Aberdeen City Council held an urgent business committee meeting yesterday afternoon to look at essential council activities due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.
At the meeting, which was attended by the party leads from all administration parties, SNP and Liberal Democrats, it was decided to suspend new recovery activity for unpaid debts where appropriate across all council accounts until May 1.
This includes council tax, rents, and sundry debts for businesses and individuals.
Power has also been given to the chief officer of finance to extend this suspension following consultation with the convener of the city growth and resources committee.
A report brought before councillors yesterday said: “The final quarter of the financial year has been marked by an escalating global response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is having an enormous impact on society and the council and partners have been responding in line with government guidance.
“To sustain critical frontline services to our city, the council has to ensure that it is sustainable and is resilient to address the issues that are arising, while flexible to deliver national schemes of support in a timely and accurate way.”
At the meeting, Jonathan Belford, chief officer of finance, said: “We need to look at how we can make sure the council continues.
“We have put this in place to make sure we can deliver our organisation.
“We’re just at the start of something, what we need to do is make sure we’ve got all of our streams open.”
SNP councillor Ciaran McRae pointed out that the recommendations put forward by council officers only suspended the collection of money until May, while other plans put in place, such as the suspension of council meetings, was planned until the end of August.
Mr Belford replied that the situation was fluid.
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He said: “The council does need to continue its ability to raise money. It will continue to process direct debits and different collections to do what it can.”
Meanwhile, support has also been pledged to businesses, as the council is participating with the Scottish Government through Cosla.
Through this, there will be a full year’s 100% non-domestic rates relief for retail, hospitality and tourism businesses from April.
There will also be a £10,000 grant available for both small businesses in receipt of the Small Business Bonus Scheme or Rural Relief, and £25,000 grants for hospitality, leisure and retail properties with a rateable value between £18,000 and £51,000.
Support is also being given to local authorities to assist them with their own resilience, support and hardship plans, with £50m being shared out.
Other government funding will also be available, such as a £70m food fund, a £50m wellbeing fund for charities, a £40m supporting communities fund, and £50m to go towards an anticipated rise in applications for the council tax reduction scheme and Scottish social security benefits.
The report added: “The full extent of financial implications cannot be described at this time due to the developing nature of the situation, and future reports will update the position based on the latest information available.”
Council co-leader Jenny Laing said: “We are working with partners at all levels to ensure the welfare of our citizens while protecting the institutions they depend upon. Our staff are continuing to provide core services, ensuring provision for those in vulnerable groups during this very difficult period, and we should applaud their efforts.
“As an organisation we are in constant communication with UK and Scottish Government, promoting the latest advice around public safety and ways to accommodate and reduce the impact of Covid-19.
“Today we streamlined committees involving all political group leaders to make appropriate decisions swiftly, which will allow us to implement relief and support packages as passed down to local government. This is a time for coming together and working as one as we face up to this unprecedented pandemic.”
The new measures were approved unanimously by councillors.
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