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Aberdeen budget: Everything you need to know as schools, roads, theatres and street sweepers face cuts

Charges to park at Aberdeen Beach could be introduced to recoup an estimated £200,000 over the next year. 

Aberdeen budget cuts in 2024 could see spending slashed across various services.
Aberdeen budget cuts in 2024 could see spending slashed across various services. Image: Roddie Reid/DC Thomson

Major road improvements could be shelved, theatres stripped of hundreds of thousands of pounds and streets left strewn with litter as Aberdeen prepares to slash millions in spending.

Finance chiefs have revealed a list of potential savings to be decided at a crunch meeting on Wednesday, March 6.

The council needs to fill a £25m black hole over the next 12 months, with rising costs and soaring bills continuing to hit the public purse.

This time last year, the SNP and Lib Dem-led authority caused outcry when it mothballed six libraries and closed two swimming pools.

Residents young and old banded together to battle the cuts. Image: Roddie Reid/DC Thomson

There ensued a year of turbulence, marked with protests and an embarrassing U-turn over Bucksburn Swimming Pool, which local politicians may be keen to avoid.

But they have been asked to consider cutting various services when they gather for the annually dreaded cost-cutting exercise.

SNP councillor Alex McLellan will present the budget to the chamber within days. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson

Meanwhile, people could be charged more for permits to park outside their homes and brown bin charges could rise again.

Fees to park at Aberdeen Beach could be introduced to recoup an estimated £200,000 over the next year.

And Pets Corner at Hazlehead Park could be closed in an effort to save £54,000.

Pedro the alpaca at Pets’ Corner. Image: Aberdeen City Council

However, local authority leaders have ruled out any cuts to the Fairer Aberdeen Fund – which provides a financial lifeline to charities like the Cyrenians and local food banks.

This follows impassioned public calls for this kitty remain off limits.

And the council-backed bus service from the Kingswells park and ride will also be protected.

Aberdeen budget 2024: What road project could be affected?

The Berryden Corridor project, an ambitious road-widening scheme aimed at cutting congestion, could be shelved.

Decades in the making and worth tens of millions overall, the project would see the stretch between Skene Square and Ashgrove Road expanded.

A new dual carriageway is planned to be built through the Berryden Corridor. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson
A new dual carriageway is planned to be built through the Berryden Corridor. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

A new road leading to the Kittybrewster roundabout would be built behind homes on Great Northern Road under the plans.

Delaying it could save £720,000 over the next year – and almost a million more in the two years after, should it remain on the shelf.

Could road changes at Berryden be booted into the long grass in the 2024 Aberdeen budget? Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Could streets suffer brunt of cuts?

Officials suggest that £220,000 be saved from the street cleaning budget.

Meanwhile, the council could save an estimated £1m in energy costs by switching off every second lamppost.

Parks could also suffer, with a suggested saving of £116,000 on maintenance.

Seaton Park in Aberdeen. Image: Visit Aberdeenshire

Grass cutting across “all open spaces” could be reduced to save £125,000 while cemeteries could be left to become overgrown in a bid to slash £100,000.

Will swimming pools be hit in 2024 Aberdeen budget?

Last year, a swingeing £687,000 cut to Sport Aberdeen spelled the end for the Beach Leisure Centre and resulted in the closure of Bucksburn Swimming Pool.

The boarded up Bucksburn building pictured in December. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Officials have this year advised that funding to “sports organisations” could be slashed, which would free up £1.3m.

This would see the council’s contribution drop by a quarter – from £4.5m this year to about £3.4m across 2024/25.

Get active @ Northfield was officially opened in 2022. Image: Sport Aberdeen

Should this be voted through, it could mean more misery for sports centre users.

It is part of a bigger plot that could ultimately see ties between the council and arms-length organisations like Sport Aberdeen severed.

And funding to Aberdeen Sports Village could be sliced by 25% too, going from £824,000 to £618,000.

Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA) could also suffer under the same policy…

What about Aberdeen’s theatres?

Funding to APA could be cut back by £234,000 over the next year.

The 25% saving would mean a reduction from £936,000 to £702,000.

The organisation runs His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen Music Hall and The Lemon Tree.

His Majesty’s Theatre is one of the Aberdeen venues operated by APA. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

A spokeswoman told us the “impact” of such a cut would only “become evident” after the meeting.

She added: “We eagerly anticipate the council’s decision and remain hopeful that it will be favourable.”

A £174,000 reduction in funding for cultural grants is also possible.

And the Tolbooth Museum, despite currently being in the midst of an expensive refurbishment, could be closed.

This would save £50,000.

Tolbooth Museum in Aberdeen
Repair work is under way at the historic Tolbooth Museum building on Union Street. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson.

Will I pay more for my brown bin?

Aberdeen City Council officials suggest that an increase in brown bin permits could claw back £376,000 over the next year.

This would see residents currently paying £30 having to shell out £50 to have their garden waste collected as of April.

Brown bin charges have been a source of controversy for years. Image: Clarke Cooper/DC Thomson

And on a similar theme, all household recycling centres other than Hazlehead could close in a proposed £250,000 cull.

What else could I end up paying more for in Aberdeen budget 2024?

Cremation fees could go up to make £75,000 extra, while burial costs could increase to secure an additional £22,000.

Hiking council tax on second homes could bring in £750,000 across 2024/25.

Fines for driving in a bus lane could go up to add £160,000 to the council’s coffers.

A similar boost could be gained from getting rid of free parking from 8am to 1pm on a Sunday.

People parking at the Gallowgate site to attend church could have to pay on Sunday mornings. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

It follows a row last autumn when the council was accused of a “shameful cash grab” at the suggestion of doing away with the grace period which allows people to park near churches for Sunday worship for free.

This was the authority’s response when Muslim leaders called for equality among the faiths by also removing charges near mosques on a Friday.

What about my parking permit?

Last year, Aberdeen City Council sparked fury by raising parking permits from £60 to £200 in some city centre zones.

Officials now suggest that a further rise could add £235,000 per year.

This table shows the current Aberdeen City Council parking permit prices. Image: DC Thomson.

That would mean a rise from £200 to £220 per year for people in the city centre, and from £150 to £165 for those on the “outer” edges.

And an increase in parking charges across the city could secure another £269,000.

Meanwhile introducing charges for parking at the beach would amass a predicted £200,000 over the next year.

Could we lose more libraries?

There could be some welcome relief for city bookworms.

Last year, local library fanatics launched a legal battle after the council controversially voted to shutter six buildings.

Barren shelves in Cults Library. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson

What do you think should be cut and saved in the meeting? Let us know in our comments section below

This year, officers have not suggested any libraries be closed in papers going before the council.

What else is being shielded?

The SNP group’s finance convenerAlex McLellan is also the chairman of the Fairer Aberdeen Fund board.

It operates by providing cash to various third sector and voluntary outfits, including various community initiatives in deprived areas and food banks.

Jennifer McAughtrie and Donna Hutchison with some of the donated food items at the Cyrenians base in Aberdeen city centre. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Mr McLellan confirmed: “There is absolutely no way we will entertain removing or reducing the funding provided to the Fairer Aberdeen Fund.

“There are a number incredibly difficult choices that will need to be made at the budget meeting next week, but the SNP and Liberal Democrats will continue to prioritise assisting people through the ongoing cost of living crisis.”

It comes after we recently highlighted Aberdeen’s “hidden” homelessness crisis as we accompanied leading councillors on a visit to the Cyrenians homelessness charity.  

Kingswells bus
The 14 bus service from Kingswells has been a hot topic. Image: Darrell Benns/DC Thomson.

And the council will continue to pump funding into the Kingswells X14 bus service, after Stagecoach withdrew it in 2017.

Liberal Democrat councillor Steve Delaney said: “Without the bus many people would have great difficulty getting to work.

“Elderly people and people with disabilities would be unable to get to medical appointments, to socialise or to get out for their weekly shopping.”

What could happen to schools?

Insiders have already sought to quell fears about some of the more extreme education savings being proposed.

The SNP-led council is unlikely to enact radical changes that would set local leaders up against their Holyrood bosses.

Victorian buildings like Ferryhill Primary School cost the council a lot to run. Image: Chris Sumner/DC Thomson

A suggested saving of £1.8m by reducing teaching time from 25 to 22.5 hours every week therefore seems unlikely to be voted through.

Similar cuts have been suggested at secondary schools, where reducing the week from 27.5 to 25 hours could save £1.8m.

Aberdeenshire school crossing patrollers will be out of a job by the end of July. Image: Kenny Elrick/DC Thomson

Just days after neighbouring Aberdeenshire Council sparked fury by voting to get rid of every school crossing patroller, Aberdeen officers say they could follow suit in a move which could recoup £85,000.

The SNP last year kiboshed plans to relocate school crossing patrollers, after Cornhill Primary School stalwart Debbie Beattie lashed out against the proposals.

Councillor Neil Copland said: “We will not be supporting any move that would see school crossing patrollers moved against their will.”

Meanwhile, officials also say scrapping school holiday schemes would save £100,000, and halving the music service could save £459,000.

Will I have to pay more council tax?

There is some relief for residents, with leaders confirming that council tax will be frozen for the year ahead.

Mr McLellan said this would be “simply unacceptable during the ongoing cost-of-living crisis”.

Council tax rates could rise in the north-east

But the freeze will mean the city loses out on the millions that could have been collected with a rise.

You can read more about the debate here.

Will locals be able to have their say on budget D-day?

It is understood campaigners will look to speak about the devastating impact of potential cuts.

But council rules, known as standing orders, don’t allow for deputations on budget day and we gather the SNP/Lib Dem administration is unlikely to shift on this.

The same issue arose when Aberdeenshire leaders refused a charity leader the chance to address the chamber last week. 

Analysis: Lollipop chop unlikely as Aberdeen hopes for ‘boring’ 2024 budget