‘Underspend’ or ‘within budget..’

Aberdeenshire Council members will hear this week that there is still £26.4 million left in the coffers from last year’s budget.

The ruling Aberdeenshire Alliance coalition has claimed an economic victory with the sum, saying it shows an efficient council spending taxpayer’s money in the right places.

Opposition SNP members say the money should all have been spent on the area.

An SNP source told the Leader that the group was ‘keeping it’s powder dry’ on the issue and would make comments following the meeting today (Thursday).

Provost Jill Webster told the Leader: “Gone are the days when a budget was allocated and it had to be spent on that budget item before the year end, come what may.

‘‘The council has taken a proactive approach to budget management.

‘‘Budget holders in services have been given the ability to manage their budgets in a much more efficient way... it has meant that we have been able to divert resources to areas of priority. For example, we have put £12million towards the provision of much-needed Broadband infrastructure services in Aberdeenshire from the £26million.”

She was backed by Alliance Councillor Karen Clark: “This is a positive financial position and the budget has come in exactly as forecast.

‘‘The healthy level of funding has given us the flexibility throughout the year to be able to choose where to invest substantially in services which are our priorities. As chair of Social Work and Housing, I know that demand for our care services is growing so I am delighted that our careful financial management has meant that we can respond to these pressures.”

Infrastructure Services Comittee chair, Cllr Peter Argyle, said: “Aberdeenshire Council manages its budgets soundly and the end of year figures, which are as forecast, demonstrate this.

‘‘The council is within budget, not through cutting services but as a result of a range of factors...”

Councillors will meet at Woodhill House today to debate the issue.