Aberdeenshire Council should avoid “horrendous” cuts in a bid to save up to £60 million and instead look at the potential for going into its reserves, a councillor has argued.
At this week’s full council meeting, elected members will look at a raft of measures proposed by officers to help the authority balance its books and cover its estimated requirement to save £46m by March 2022.
The authority is seeking a balanced budget with £60m of savings, but council leader Jim Gifford said it “hopefully won’t need nearly as much as that”.
Officers have suggested spending on education may need to be slashed by nearly £2.5m while more than £7.3m could be trimmed from the infrastructure budget in the wake of the financial devastation brought about by Covid-19.o
Also proposed is a council tax increase of 3% to save £4.4m and reducing the council’s workforce of 16,000 by 1% through voluntary severance to save £3m.
Councillor Martin Ford, of the Democratic Independent and Green Group, said: “The savings made to deal with ‘normal’ budget pressures generally need to be recurring.
“Meeting the cost of the pandemic should be based on a different approach — for instance, using the council’s reserves.
“This approach would allow the council to ‘pay for’ the pandemic over many years, with gradual restoration of reserves.
“If this approach is not taken, services will have to be cut to bring the revenue budget into balance.
“And given the scale of the savings required, the cuts would inevitably be horrendous.”
The SNP’s Aberdeenshire Council group leader Gwyneth Petrie said: “With the challenge we face, we should be using this as an opportunity to think about things differently and instead focus on what we really have to be doing, and make sure what we’re doing delivers essential services for communities, rather than just cutting back everywhere.”
The council’s deputy leader Peter Argyle said: “We are still working on all of this.
“The paper indicates the scale of what could be possible; it is far from a balanced budget yet and there are many decisions still to be taken between now and Budget Day early next year.”