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Aberdeen SNP boss Christian Allard ‘pleads’ for government funds

The city co-leader made the appeal after national warnings some local authorities could risk bankruptcy if budgets are not improved.

SNP council co-leader Christian Allard said money to improve Aberdeen must 'come from somewhere'- and a tourist tax is one thing the local authority is looking at. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson.
SNP council co-leader Christian Allard. Image: Wullie Marr/DC Thomson.

Aberdeen council co-leader Christian Allard has issued a plea to his party’s leadership at Holyrood and to Tories in London to help the council balance its budget.

The SNP councillor made the appeal after leaders across Scotland warned there is a risk of bankruptcy for local councils if funding from Holyrood is not improved.

Aberdeen City Council faces a projected £35 million black hole in 2024-25 with fears even core services could be hit, including education and social care.

Councils must set their budgets this year without relying on raising council tax, following Humza Yousaf’s decision to freeze the tax next year.

Mr Allard told local government body Cosla they expect the council tax freeze to be “fully funded” by government to ensure “Aberdeen doesn’t end up in a worse situation”.

Details have yet to emerge on how much money local authorities will get to compensate for the council tax freeze.

The Scottish Government has insisted the policy will be “fully funded”.

Six libraries were closed in Aberdeen earlier this year as a result of council budget cuts. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson.

The SNP-Liberal Democrat run council announced the controversial closure of six libraries and a swimming pool in Aberdeen due to budget cuts in March.

And Mr Allard warned the financial situation remains “very difficult despite drastic action we took last year”.

He told the P&J: “Inflation is still too high and cost of living has hit us a lot more this year. It proved impossible last year to balance the books.

“We are pleading to both governments to make sure we can balance the books.

“We welcome the council tax free because it’s the right thing to do but it needs to be fully funded.”

Aberdeen City Council co-leaders Ian Yuill and Christian Allard. Image: Wullie Marr / DC Thomson.

Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat councillor Ian Yuill, who leads the authority with Mr Allard, said councils have had their “funding squeezed and that needs to end”.

He added: “Our priority is to ensure Aberdeen City Council gets fully funded for the council tax freeze and that the budget settlement allows us to provide the services on which people depend.”

Public had their say

Members of the public were given a say on next year’s budget through a poll which closed on November 12. Council leaders expect the results soon.

Dozens of options were offered for consideration before a final decision is taken by councillors on March 6.

Residents in the first phase of the consultation told city council bosses to leave education unscathed.

But doubt hangs over schools with options to shelve new buildings, shorten school days, stop buses and shut kitchens.

On Monday, Cosla warned councils face a bankruptcy risk unless the Scottish Government improves the funding on offer.

Aberdeen City Council’s budget simulator, where the public can have a say on £83 million cuts. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

The local government body made the comment after Birmingham and Nottingham councils effectively declared themselves bankrupt in England.

In a briefing paper published ahead of the Scottish Budget on December 19, Cosla said: “There is a risk this becomes the reality for Scottish councils if the funding by Scottish Government does not match growing cost pressures.”

Cosla resources spokeswoman Katie Hagmann warned without improvements in council funding, “tough choices” could mean essential services they provide “will cease”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Scotland is facing the most challenging budget settlement since devolution as a result of sustained high inflation and a UK Government autumn statement that failed to deliver the investment needed in Scotland’s public services.

“The Scottish Government has increased the resources available to local government in 2023-24 by more than £793 million, a real-terms increase of £376 million or 3%, compared to the 2022-23 Budget figures.

“In 2023-24, Aberdeen City Council will receive £436.9 million to fund local services, which equates to an extra £27.1 million to support vital day to day services compared to 2022-23.”

The UK Treasury was approached for comment.