>> 14 February 2017
Ellon & District SNP Councillor Richard Thomson has welcomed the approval of Aberdeenshire Council's budget for the year ahead, describing it as “good for schools, communities and businesses.”
The budget, which passed by a margin of 33 votes to 32 in the face of opposition from the Conservative and Lib Dem 'Alliance', will support local services worth £546 million and the delivery of an ambitious £132 million capital programme for building new schools, leisure centres and roads projects. Councillors also passed a 'carbon budget' to help monitor and reduce CO2 emissions – making Aberdeenshire the first local authority in Scotland to do so.
Speaking afterwards, Cllr Thomson hailed the additional £3m earmarked by the administration to provide business rates relief. He also severely criticised the alternative budget on offer from the Tory/Lib Dem led 'Aberdeenshire Alliance', which if passed would have seen multi-million pound cuts to the education budget and the use of over £6 million of council reserves simply to balance the books for the year ahead.
“If the Alliance proposals had passed, it would have meant cuts in teacher numbers; pupils being told that they could no longer take certain SQA exams; deep cuts to pupil support and the end of instrumental music tuition. Thankfully, Aberdeenshire schools can now look forward to stability in their budgets, along with additional resources to support teacher recruitment.
“After nine years of complaining about the council tax freeze, it's incredible that Alliance members were prepared to inflict cuts of this scale on our schools instead of accepting the sort of modest tax increase that they have called for in every other year.
“It is the responsibility of any opposition to present credible plans for what they would do if they took office. The Tory/Lib Dem opposition should be embarrassed to have served up such a barely-competent piece of slash-and-burn accounting, especially one which relied so heavily on use of reserves.
“Budget day offered further evidence – if any were needed – that the political divide in Aberdeenshire Council is between a competent and credible administration of the SNP working in Partnership with Labour and others, or a Tory-led opposition which with each passing day looks less and less able to meet the demands of office.”