Public opinion will shape Aberdeenshire Council’s plan to make nearly £20million of spending cuts next year, a senior councillor has said.
The local authority is facing a funding shortfall of more than £50million over the next four years, and around £17.5million of spending needs to be axed for 2016.
Councillors will be asked to agree that the budget takes place on February 11 when they meet on Thursday.
Local authority officers have also urged members to launch a comprehensive public engagement campaign before Christmas to gauge the feelings of north-east residents.
In a report to councillors, Aberdeenshire Council finance boss Alan Wood said: “Budget engagement is extremely important when compiling Aberdeenshire Council’s budget as has been demonstrated in recent years with the adoption of a number of innovative approaches.
“Engagement and the feedback from this process can inform the decisions made by Aberdeenshire councillors in setting a balanced budget which will ensure that the council continues to deliver appropriate and prioritised local services to communities.”
Mr Wood added that council staff, north-east school pupils, community councils, businesses and residents will all have an opportunity to air their views on the latest round of spending cuts.
Last night, council co-leader Richard Thomson said the administration is keeping an open mind on how to alleviate fresh budget pressures.
“We are keen to gather public views on some of the fundamental choices which councillors will have to decide between next February,” he said.
“This is the beginning of a budget engagement process which, although it will still require some tough decisions to be made, will help all political groupings to approach February’s budget knowing what the public think about a range of important issues when it comes to delivering local services.
“No-one is under any illusions about the financial challenges which lie ahead for all of Scotland’s local authorities in a climate of continued austerity.
“By starting our budget process now, we hope to be able to encourage a wider debate both inside and outside the council in the lead-up to February, which can help us to deliver a balanced budget and priorities in line with the wishes of the people of Aberdeenshire.”
No detailed options have been presented at this stage as next year’s government grant for running services has not been announced.
However, it is expected to remain at around £530million.