Proposals to set the annual revenue budget for Aberdeenshire Council will be discussed by councillors when they meet next week.
The revenue budget is a statement, in financial terms, of the council’s strategic priorities for the provision of key services over the next three years.
The report, by Head of Finance Alan Wood, forecasts the council to be within budget for the current year and balanced for 2014/15.
Looking ahead for the next four years to 2018/19, budget savings of around £49 million will be required, because the grant from the Scottish Government is likely to remain largely the same, while the cost of delivering services is increasing every year.
Elected members will also consider the council’s Capital Plan budget, alongside the Revenue Budget. This is the first time the two will be considered together, to emphasise the direct link between two of the council’s key financial plans.
The Revenue Budget report to go before the full meeting of councillors sets out a funding deal of £395.6 million for 2014/15, on the condition that council tax is frozen for the next three years, teacher numbers are maintained in line with pupil numbers and places are secured for probationer teachers.
Failure to meet the council tax commitment would result in a reduction to the council’s grant of 0.9%, around £3.6 million.
The council has engaged with local communities on the budget with a series of engagement events and the creation of a budget simulator tool which allows people to balance a notional budget and set their own priorities.
The Business Transformation Board is overseeing a range of projects to deliver efficiencies within the council, protecting frontline service delivery.
The council’s Capital Plan is set out from 2014/15 to 2026/27.
Large projects often take longer to deliver than originally estimated, but improvements in project assessment, cost estimates and financial procurement means more accurate budget reporting and the delivery of more capital projects within Aberdeenshire. This provides a boost for local infrastructure and economy.
The Capital Plan for 2014-27 is projected to be out of balance by £73.2 million, or 8.25% of the £887 million budget.
Included in the Capital Plan budget is the £75 million capped cost for the
Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR), which will be financed through
£30 million of budgeted expenditure and anticipated borrowing of £45
Councillors will be asked to agree for work to begin on reviewing the Capital
Plan, to reflect an affordable set of priorities in conjunction with
balancing the Revenue Budget.
The objective of the review will be to reduce the funding shortfall,
together with a re-profiling of the delivery of projects.
Housing Revenue Account Budget
A third budget paper, on the Housing Revenue Account, will also be
considered by councillors next week.
Councillors are being asked to consider a 4.5% increase in council house rent
charges from 1 April 2014. This is part of a three-year programme of rent
uplift, from April 2013, a key aspect of the Housing Business Plan. The
move follows detailed consultation with council house tenants in 2012.
Another public consultation on rent charges is planned for September 2015.
Elected members are also being asked to agree to revised charges for
homeless temporary accommodation to account for changes as a result of
Welfare Reform, in particular the Benefit Cap.