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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

“Aberdeen is open for business”: Essential Services Retained Despite Budget Fears

 Leisure and cultural funding spared the axe as yearly budget approved by councillors

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Aberdeen City Council has set its budget for the next financial year. Tasked with making up a £25 million shortfall, councillors voted to raise bus gate fines by 66% and shelve the long planned Berryden Corridor roadworks.

Prior to the meeting, protestors from trade unions and community groups assembled outside the Town House, shouting slogans like “Save our services” and “No more cuts.”

One protestor told The Gaudie: “There's always money for Shell and BP but none for the little guys.”

After last year's disastrous budget, which saw the council hauled into court over the closure of libraries and pools across the city, such fears were not unexpected.

Budget Proceedings Relatively Calm

However, these concerns were assuaged once proceedings began, as the ruling administration's budget retained funding to vital services across the city. 

Cultural Grant Funding has been kept to the tune of £174,000, and the campaign to reopen the Belmont Cinema received £50,000. Sport Aberdeen has retained its block grant of £4.5 million, with additional funds set aside to reopen Bucksburn Swimming Pool.

Beginning in the spring, drivers will be able to “park for a pound” in off-street car parks across the city centre after 5 PM. Councillors hope that the scheme, which will be trialled for 6 months, will provide a boost to Aberdeen's night time economy.

Commenting on the scheme, SNP Finance Convener Alex McLellan quipped: “Let’s ensure everyone knows Aberdeen is open for business.”

And £1 million pounds has been allocated to create a “poverty-fighting fund”, with an additional £100,000 earmarked for the purchase of children's winter clothing.

Speaking after the budget was voted through (24-10, with 9 abstentions), Mr McLellan said: “We have produced a budget that delivers for both citizens and our city, as our spending plans prioritise frontline services, but also invests in the city centre.

“Despite significant external challenges – high inflation, bigger energy bills, supply chain volatility – we have to balance the books without burdening people with extra cost when many are already struggling with household bills.”

Council Co-Leader Ian Yuill (Liberal Democrats) added: “In listening to people, it was clear that many are still struggling financially, so it was important to reduce those pressures where we can. At the same time, we wanted to invest in Aberdeen’s future – in its young people and infrastructure for growth.

“Our budget focuses on the key services upon which people depend – education and schools, repairing roads and pavements, protecting our environment, and helping the most vulnerable in our community.”

Opposition councillors hit out at administration's plans

Conservative Ryan Houghton accused council leadership of spending too much money on capital projects, including a £15.5 million redevelopment of Castlegate and £16.8 million urban park in Queen Street.

As reported by the Press and Journal, Mr Houghton noted: “Some of us make financially prudent decisions and some do not.

“This year it would seem the SNP want to put their budget on the credit card, by going against officer advice on the service concessions.

“You are raiding the reserves.”

Independent councillor Marie Boulton also criticised the spending spree, quipping that the administration must have found a “pot at the end of a rainbow.”

With the relatively uncontroversial budget now determined for the upcoming year, it is unlikely that there will be a sequel to last year's court action- much to the relief of councillors.


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