SNP Plan to Scrutinise Council Cash Surplus Voted Down

>> 28 June 2012

Proposals by SNP councillors in Aberdeenshire to set up a sub-committee to monitor the council’s budget were voted down by an alliance of Labour, Conservative, Liberal and Independent councillors today.  Unaligned Independents and Greens backed the plan.

The move came following a year of damaging council cutbacks in Aberdeenshire in areas such as sheltered housing wardens and classroom assistants, at the end of which the council found it had underspent it’s budget by £25 million.

SNP councillors argued that a sub-committee be set up to scrutinise future budgets to avoid a situation arising in the future where essential services were being cut which didn’t actually need to be cut.

The SNP also proposed transferring £10 million of the underspend into council reserves to insulate the council from having to make cuts in future years.

An SNP Spokesperson highlighted the need for caution before rushing into spending the reported £20 million budget underspend.  He said:

“Taking into account the transfer of £4.8M from the Revenue Budget to the Capital Budget during the year ending March 2012, the total Budget underspend is almost £25 million. The objective is to set a balanced budget and to monitor the Budget to ensure that actual expenditure is monitored to highlight areas of over or underspend. The present Budget Monitoring could be improved and this was the proposal put forward by the SNP Group.

“The SNP Group will continue to hold the Administration to account and will continue to challenge and seek early notice of any future Budget underspends. The delivery of first class public services to the residents is a priority of the SNP Group.”

Cllr Hamish Vernal (Inverurie & District) sought clarification on when the size of the budget underspend first became known but was prevented from asking questions by the Provost, Jill Webster.  He said:

“Despite comments from the Tory-led administration today about how they wanted to be ‘open and transparent’ in their handling of the finances, I was extremely that the Provost closed down my line of questioning as to who knew what and when.

“Aberdeenshire residents have a right to know how long this underspend has been known about and why significant cuts were being made apparently at the same time.”

Commenting on the Administration's spending proposals, Cllr Rob Merson (Ellon & District) said:

"Although most of the proposals being put before us today are commendable - indeed, many of them featured in the SNP budget proposals - I would hope that the Administration would also take the opportunity to review some of those areas where the Council has already inflicted cuts, perhaps too soon and too deeply.  I am thinking particularly of the cuts inflicted on Sheltered Housing Officer cover and classroom assistants - which continue to be a source of public dissatisfaction and controversy."

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