Budgets - when the going gets tough you can see where priorities lie.

As central funding gets tighter, the sustainability of Council tax freeze gets further called into question and the prospect of a George Osborne austerity budget looms, the stresses of Council budgets are starting to show.

Aberdeenshire has survived fairly well up to now.  Despite the low central government grants, good management and tight control has limited the pain.  And Aberdeenshire prided itself on maintaining standards in Education.  But now the prospect forwards looks grim.

For 2010/11, there was a funding gap of £10m and agreement between the LibDem/Tory administration and officers on how to find £6m.  That left us this morning trying to fill a £4.49m hole.

The LibDem/Tory administration proposed "realignment of budgets", heavily impacting Education as follows:

Life Long Learning & Leisure
  • £250,000 Cuts in support for Learners Auxillaries
  • £646,000 No increase in nursery school hours
  • £1,031,000 No provision of free school meals for Primary One to Three pupils.
  • £840,000 Saving from turnover and recruiting at lower salary levels.
  • £200,000 Undefined efficiency saving from Community Learning & Development and Libraries
  • £244,000 Cut in per capita allowances to devolved school budgets
  • £45,000 cut in health education
  • £85,000 5% cut in budgets for Sure Start and Community Network budgets
  • £200,000 Pre-school Education and Nursery (to be achieved by using Council school premises where possible)
  • £52,000 Cut in travel and subsistence budget.
and in other areas
  • £225,000 Community wellbeing -cuts in posts
  • £325,000 Reduction of funding to external partners
  • £132000 Cuts on day care provision
  • £14,000 Reduction in North East Chief Executive Forum funding
  • £60,000 Efficiencies in officer accommodation use and from WorkSmart
  • £100,000 Efficiencies from transferrring more services to Contact Centre.

The offical opposition, the SNP responded with a rather vague budget.
  • £2,429,000 Resource efficiency (£1,1020 target recurring underspends, £500,000 review end year flexibility, £500,000 redcue business mileage, £250,000 Shared Service opportunities, £150,000 Review methods of publicity)
  • £879,000 Workforce management (£500,000 vacancy management, £225,000 review staff absences, £150,000 review staff shift allowances)
  • £745,000 Capital funding adjustments (£500,000 reprofiling capital plan, £200,000 review treasury management, £45,000 sale of surplus assets)
  • £400,000 Procurment cuts (£200,000 reduce expenditure on consultants, £100,000 review software licences, £100,000 savings from corporate contracts)

As the details are nearly all expressed as round hundreds of thousands of pounds, I suspect the rigor of the analysis.  £500,000 from reprofiling the capital plan equates to £5m cut in capital spending and I'd dearly like to know where this was to come from.  The whole budget seems to me as just "we need to find the money so we'll just spread the pain around."

The Democratic Independent Group last year proposed a budget without "growth" items and instead with one-off spends designed to save money later.

This year, with the situation worse, we wanted to provide a breathing space by
  • transferring £3,500,000 of revenue spend in schools and roads to capital,
  • scrapping the unsuccessful unadopted roads scheme for £300,000,
  • anticipating a low rise in salary levels for most staff (£865,000) and mandating a freeze for senior officers (£90,000) and, in order to share the pain, cutting special resonsibility allowances to Vice Chairs (£25,000). 
  • We also believe that a cut in administration f £250,000 is achieveable
  • We also believe that we need to stop the drain on our Visitors Attractions and therefore proposed cutting £150,000.  This was done with some sadness - Archeolink is a great idea but its future needs to be independent of the Council.
  • We also cut £253,000 from the growth initiatives.

That then allowed us to put £653,000 into Spend to Save initiatives and add an extra £331,000 to balances in case the risks are even more adverse than expectations.

My ward colleague Rob Merson didn't understand our switch of revenue funding to capital.  Rob, Fergus could, I hope, explain that cutting £500,000 from revenue by reprofiling the capital plan does means that somehow about £5m of capital spending needs to be delayed.  What we proposed was roughly the reverse.   More alarmingly Jill Webster, Vice Chair of Infrastructure despite her long service as councillor also didn't understand this common mechanism.  

So, LibDems and Tories are prepared to sacrifice education.  The SNP don't know what their priorities are.  And the Democratic Indpendent Group aim to plan for long term savings and protect our most valuable services especially education.

But LibDem/Tory cuts in education it is.  What a future.


  1. Where can we read the full details of the Council budget?
    Can the public read more about this anywhere? I know Id like to know more about what are local authority are deciding on our behalf.
    Thank you for posting this it's dificult for the public to access such information.

  2. I have published the details contained in all three proposals as fully as I had them (minus verbiage) The only additional information I had was the agenda and the budget briefing papers.

    My advice would be to ask, under FoI for the Budget Briefing Papers which do contain some interesting information.

  3. I noticed that a Inverurie based group Aberdeen Disability Action were turned down for funding yesterday - is this a coincidence?

  4. I had to laugh at the Education Committee report Management review of Support for Learners Auxillaries 25th March. I love the way they dress this paper up to imply greater efficiency, which there may be some need for in all sectors - but really we all know what this is about - i.e. the £250,000 cut in Learner's support for auxillaries put forward by the Lib Dem/Tory administration. There are 1000 staff, 30% on FT contracts the rest on fixed term time or relief. It says there may be an increase in auxillaries in some areas and a reduction in others....but's lets be clear here there WILL be an overall reduction and job losses.
    Also keep an eye out for where the cuts in partner funding are being made....see which groups are hi first.


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