Budget Promises New School for Dunnottar and Better Roads

By Jane Cruickshank / March 17, 2021
The familiar Victorian frontage of Dunnottar Primary

ABERDEENSHIRE Council’s budget for 2021 -22 agreed today promises a new build for Stonehaven’s Dunnottar Primary along with increased investment in our infrastructure.

Budgets are the particular speciality of one former pupil at Dunnottar – Anneliese Dodds MP. Fond memories aside, it is unlikely the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer would challenge Aberdeenshire Councils decision to replace the Victorian building housing 186 pupils. It was recently rated as the least suitable primary school in the Shire.

And there is ulikely to be any complaint at the decision to increase investment in our roads.

Budget highlights

Members agreed to set the revenue budgets at £635 million. Highlights include:

  • Extra £500,000 in children’s services to deliver better outcomes for vulnerable children, young people and their families
  • £350,000 on the rapid rehousing plan, increasing the range of permanent housing within the social and private rented sectors
  • An extra £3m to early years to honour the 1140 early years commitment

Capital spend this year

The capital budget for the coming year will be £108 million, including:

  • Programme for bridge work prioritisation agreed.
  • Extra £13m into the infrastructure fund, each year for 10 years. Recognition of the demand on infrastructure and backlog of repairs.
  • Two new primary schools – replacing Dunnottar in Stonehaven and Fraserburgh North and St Andrews in Fraserburgh.

Extra spending on roads

Councillors also agreed a range of reserves including a £9m general reserve and a further £9.9m into earmarked reserves. This includes:

  • £3.5m for Tackling Poverty and Inequalities – targeting areas of pressure on communities as a result of the pandemic 
  • £1.3m for Winter Maintenance 
  • £2.5m for Roads Maintenance 
  • £500,000 on Repairs and Maintenance to make much needed repairs and to improve the current property estate   
  • £2m on Education and Childrens Services Holiday Recovery Programme to support schools and young people in their return to the school environment following Covid 

Cllr Andy Kille, Leader of the Council, said: “The budget being proposed today has been designed to place the Council in a solid fiscal position. It is built on the principles of delivering value for money for the residents of Aberdeenshire, protecting frontline services, investing in the Council’s priorities, and ensuring that we have enough tucked away for this – and the next – rainy day. Flexibility is the key going forward. We must have the resilience for possible setbacks, and we must help fund the recovery.” 

Savings – the down side

The gap in the budget in the middle of the last financial year was large and, according to the local authority’s press release, that gap has been closed, but not entirely. To address this, savings totalling £9,628,000 are described including:

  • For early years, increased out of school care charges – £1,200,000
  • In secondary schools, the provision of Aberdeenshire Life Education Centres in schools will be removed
  • For Live Life Aberdeenshire there will be a restructure of teams with a reduction in the use of relief and agency staff
  • Job losses in Infrastructure Services
  • Waste services – reduction in use of agency and relief staff and optimised amenity site opening hours – £1,140,000
  • Increased burial charges by 10% -£515,000
  • Withdrawal of Taxi Card Scheme which provides disabled and elderly residents with discounts on taxi and rail fares – £147,000
  • Increase in car park tariffs.

Cllr Peter Argyle, Deputy Leader said: “Sound financial management is not something any of us take for granted and we know it is hard-earned. We have not and do not shy away from the need to make difficult decisions. We listen to our communities. We pride ourselves in the delivery of good quality local services.

”All of that is underpinned by a strong understanding of our financial position. I welcome the collective efforts of our partners in working tirelessly to meet the needs of our communities.”

The full papers presented at today’s meeting, including the budgets tabled by the different parties are available online. A recording of the meeting will be posted on the Council’s Youtube channel in due course.

Previously in The Bellman