The chief executive of Aberdeenshire Council has asked both the UK and Scottish governments for help to address the “unparalleled financial pressures” faced by the authority in the face of the pandemic and other challenges.
At last month’s full meeting of the council, Jim Savege was instructed to write to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, and the Scottish Government’s finance secretary, Kate Forbes, to request additional funding.
The council believes that is vital if it is to balance its books and continue delivering vital services to Aberdeenshire residents.
Early indications from the two governments, however, suggest that hope will be dashed, with each stressing the support they have already provided.
Due to the impact of the virus, Aberdeenshire Council is expecting to be over budget by almost £30 million by the end of the 2020/21 financial year.
In his letter to Mr Sunak, Mr Savege explains that Aberdeenshire also “finds itself with additional challenges” on top of the pandemic.
They include issues with digital infrastructure and more than 50,000 homes without fibre broadband, as well as the oil and gas downturn of recent years.
Mr Savege wrote: “Aberdeenshire Council recognises the significant support it has received from both the UK Government and the Scottish Government and fully accepts its responsibility to reduce costs, collect income and support the Aberdeenshire economy.
“However, in light of the continued lack of certainty over the current position and lack of clarity surrounding the recent budget announcement I have been instructed to write to you to seek further financial support in order to sustainably address the unparalleled financial pressures being faced by the council.”
Councillor Martin Ford, who put forward the amendment asking for Mr Savege to appeal for government support, said: “The Council will have to find savings, but the last few months have again underlined how crucial council services are to society and individuals.
“So the council needs more financial help to prevent cuts to services people now need more than ever.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said it shared “the concerns of Aberdeenshire Council over the impact on public finances of the delay to the UK budget” and would seek “urgent clarity” from the UK Government on their plans.
But he said it was doing its part to provide the authority, and others, with a “fair share” of additional funding.
“Working in partnership with Cosla, the Scottish Government has delivered on our commitment to support councils across Scotland with a package of support for local services worth up to £750 million, giving them the powers they need to make informed decisions about spending at a local level,” he said.
“Taken together with the additional £382.2 million of funding that has already been committed, this brings the value of the overall Covid-19 support package for councils to more than £1 billion.”
“Aberdeenshire Council has and will continue to receive its fair share of additional funding.”
A spokesman for the UK Treasury stressed the support it has already offered to enable the Scottish Government to help council.
“In July, the UK Government made an unprecedented upfront funding guarantee to the devolved administrations, which included guaranteeing that the Scottish Government will receive at least £6.5 billion in additional funding this year on top of their spring budget 2020 funding,” he said.
“In addition to this support, the Scottish Parliament has extensive borrowing and tax powers to introduce and fund new policies.
“We have also been working closely with the Scottish Government in recent weeks to enable them to provide the package of financial flexibilities for local authorities that they have announced.”