The statement of accounts for 2011/12 has been discussed and approved by councillors at the last full Aberdeenshire Council meeting before the summer recess.
The unaudited accounts – an assessment of the council’s financial position for the year 2011/12 – will now be passed to Audit Scotland and the council’s external auditors Deloitte for inspection.
Head of Finance, Alan Wood, addressed elected members on the underspend of just over £20 million generated by the council in the last financial year.
From a budget of £541 million, the local authority spent £19.6 million less than expected, and also generated £0.59 million more income than anticipated.
Mr Wood explained that the surplus was the result of consistent and proactive management of budgets across all services, early achievement of some savings and the management of staffing and other costs.
Councillors were told that underspends are predominantly one-off in nature, and that there has been limited evidence of any impact on the delivery of key services.
The report generated a lengthy debate between members during the meeting. Some members were happy to see the underspend allocated to key projects, while others urged restraint on spending, in the context of the current financial climate.
Elected members agreed that the savings should be used in three ways; to top up reserves (£1.5m), to enable services to complete projects started last year (£6m) and to invest in key priority areas (£13m).
Plans to transfer £1.5 million into the Building and Repairs Maintenance Fund, to increase the programme of work in making council buildings fit-for-purpose, were also agreed.
Members agreed to allow services to carry forward up to £6 million to complete projects started in 2011/12, under the end of year flexibility scheme.
The remaining funds from the underspend has been set aside for councillors to consider a set of proposals for key areas of development for the council.
Councillors asked for a full analysis of budget underspends to be reported to the Policy & Resources Committee in September.