Aberdeen council leaders have urged community groups to come forward with ideas as it emerged between £40 and £50million will have to be trimmed this year.
Co-leader Jenny Laing told the groups at a meeting yesterday they should join lobbying efforts to secure more funding.
But the ruling Conservative, Aberdeen Labour and independent alliance was accused of “closing the stable door after the horse had bolted” given the short timescale until the budget is set on March 5.
The massive savings figure will have to be made through cuts and potentially increased revenues in the likes of council tax, parking and burial charges.
Aberdeen leaders have admitted it will be “difficult” not to increase council tax this year – but have not confirmed whether they will use new powers to raise it by 4.7%.
Yesterday a meeting of community groups were told that budget options were still being prepared.
Under the terms of the 2016 bond issue on the stock exchange, the city of London must be informed of major financial changes in the council.
Aberdeen generated around £28milllion more in business rates than was expected – but the administration leaders made it clear that any additional revenue was simply stripped from their government grant.
Finance secretary Derek Mackay, who this week secured support for his own budget proposals, declined a recent request for the additional funds.
Council co-leader Jenny Laing said:“Given the size of the funding gap, it is inevitable that there will be a direct effect on our employees, our arms-length organisations and the third sector.
“The most frustrating thing is that there is a way that these cuts can be avoided but only if the Scottish Government allow the council to keep the £28million.
“It’s very likely that everybody in the room today will be impacted by these decisions the council will make. So join us in flying the flag for Aberdeen on the national stage and using the influence we have to fight the city’s corner.”
However, Independent Aberdeen Donside MSP Mark McDonald said of Mrs Laing’s call: “To me, this is closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
“If the administration had wanted to galvanise an approach to influence the budget they needed to do that before (Derek Mackay) had the votes in place to pass the budget.”
“If the timing of this was because the council had to wait to reveal their figures to the stock exchange before they could do this, then it begs the question of who the council is serving. The people of Aberdeen should be the first priority.”
Opposition SNP group leader Stephen Flynn added: “I thought it was ludicrous to invite community groups, third sector partners and business representatives to a meeting when the co-leaders are completely unable to discuss in detail how they intend to actually make savings.
“Certainly, the concept that these savings are in any way someone else’s fault is as ridiculous as it is laughable – the people of Aberdeen are acutely aware of each and every huge overspend that this administration has ushered in since 2012.”
Yesterday, groups that receive council funding voiced their fears for the future.
Aberdeen Inspired chief executive Adrian Watson, which promotes many of the city’s events like Nuart and the Christmas Village, admitted there would be “challenges” for funding ahead.
Philip Muinde, of the Grampian Regional Equality Council, added that he feared any loss of funding for the organisation could lead to diminished support for the likes of Syrian refugees, lead to a rise in racism and damage Aberdeen’s reputation.