The total spent by the three north-east councils on energy is predicted to rise by almost £16 million from last year, as the cost of living crisis continues to bite.
Aberdeen City Council’s energy bill alone is expected to be more than £20.8 million at the end of this year.
That is more than double the amount spent five years ago, when the total was just under £10.4 million, and an almost 75% increase from the £12 million spent last year.
In Aberdeenshire, the projected cost for this year is £15.7 million – a 50% increase from last year.
Moray Council is also expecting a 50% increase, from £3.2 million to £4.9 million.
These figures include the cost of heating and electricity at facilities such as schools, libraries, offices and community centres, as well as for street lighting and waste disposal.
In total, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Councils expect to spend more than £41.4 million on energy in 2022/23, up from around £25.6 million last year.
‘It’s a struggle’
The staggering increases illustrate the impact of the cost of living crisis on the region’s public bodies, revealed for the first time in figures obtained by The Press and Journal through freedom of information requests.
They show similar issues for the health service in the north and north-east, as well as the region’s prisons and courts.
In an Aberdeen City Council meeting at the beginning of November, resources director Steve Whyte outlined the “significant financial pressure” approaching on all sides.
He said: “It’s a struggle not just with energy costs but inflation, the cost of food.
“All of our cost base has been put under severe pressure we’ve never experienced before, hence we’d be concerned if we tried to add more cost pressure.”
By the end of this financial year, the local authority is expecting a £4.4 million deficit in its general fund.
Tough times for arts in north-east
Aberdeen Performing Arts, an arms-length culture organisation that received almost £1m in funding from the council last year, has also been open about the threat of rising energy costs.
In a report from October, APA’s director of programming and creative projects Ben Torrie said: “The energy market volatility has been and continues to be a real challenge.
“It has the potential to be a threat to our organisation if there is no targeted support provided or reduction in the prevailing rates in the near future.”
In the 2022/23 budget, APA’s funding was cut by 5%.
The next budget, which is to be set in March, will largely determine how the local authority tackles the recent huge price rises.
Moray and Aberdeenshire share pressure
Like Aberdeen City Council, Moray and Aberdeenshire councils’ energy bills stayed relatively constant over the past five years.
But now, both are predicting they will pay 150% of what they did last year.
Research released this summer showed Aberdeenshire was among the top five most expensive local authority areas in the UK for energy bills.
An Aberdeenshire Council spokeswoman said: “Aberdeenshire Council, like every other local authority, is considering the implications of significant cost increases, including those related to energy prices.
“Decisions will be taken by council as part of its medium-term financial strategy and budget-setting process.
“No specific decisions have been taken at this time.”
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