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'The people of Aberdeen deserve better': Council again votes down plans to reverse funding cuts

Campaigners left 'disappointed' as motion which would reopen six libraries and Bucksburn Pool received zero votes.

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Hundreds of campaigners demonstrated against the cuts at Marischal College in late March

Photo Credit: Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

At a meeting of the Finance and Resource committee this morning, Aberdeen City councillors voted down a motion which would have provided funding for six libraries and Bucksburn Swimming Pool.

Councillor Boulton urged the Council to work with communities

In a move designed to ‘buy time to allow officers to work with communities…’, independent councillor Marie Boulton laid out her strategy, which planned to delay a construction contract for elements of the Beach Masterplan until 2024/2025, shifting 13 million pounds of expenditure to future years. The motion also called on councillors to focus efforts on the redevelopment of the city centre.

According to Boulton, the resulting funding would have enabled the 280,000 pound cut to library services to be reversed. It would have also provided Sport Aberdeen with a 2 million pound grant, allowing Bucksburn Pool to be reopened.

Boulton told councillors: ‘This is not about reopening the budget. This is about pausing and doing the right thing.’

Labour did not support delaying Masterplan elements, would have used contingency funds instead:

Aberdeen Labour leader Barney Crockett submitted an amendment to Boulton's plan, which would fund the facilities using monies from the 4 million pound contingency budget.

Crockett repeatedly emphasised that his party did not want to delay aspects of the Beach Masterplan, and as such did not support Boulton’s motion.

Convenor Alexander McLellan pushed back on the amendment, telling councillors: ‘We need to be realistic… this is not the opportunity to do this. We need to stand by the budget, as it stands… and not be irresponsible with the Council’s money…’

Outgoing SNP group leader Alex Nicoll also weighed in, erroneously claiming that Aberdeen Labour were ‘deferring, dithering, and delaying the Beach masterplan,’ a contention Crockett hit back against.

Boulton ‘disappointed’ by Council’s conduct:

In her closing statement, Boulton said her motion was an opportunity for the Council to step ‘back from the brink’ and listen to the people of Aberdeen.

Yet, there appeared to be little political will to support Boulton’s motion. It was voted down by the committee's Liberal Democrat and SNP councillors, 8-0. All five Labour and Conservative councillors abstained from the vote.

Boulton left the chamber immediately after the vote, tersely telling her fellow councillors she was ‘disappointed’ in their conduct.

On Wednesday afternoon, Councillor Boulton told The Gaudie what she meant by her comment.

She said: '... when [the public] hear elected members saying how awful the closures and cuts are but fail to see them at least try to come together to vote for getting them reopened, or hear them say “that difficult decisions must be made at the budget”, when a reasonable financial solution has been identified... [That] gives the message that the Beach Master Plan is more important, and the award of a possible contract can’t be delayed for a few months, freeing up monies which would allow officers to work with the communities to try and find a way to save the libraries and pool.

The public will rightly have questions, but at the end of the day councillors might have the voting power in the council chamber, but it is the public who will have the voting power at the ballot box.'

David Laing, a resident in Boulton's ward of Lower Deeside, added:

'Cllr Boulton’s motion sought to reverse damaging cuts to vital services while protecting public finances. Voting against the motion, the SNP/LibDem partnership of chaos has committed themselves to hammering ahead with devastating cuts across the city. Labour and the Tories, should be equally ashamed, sitting on their hands, letting the administration off the hook at this final opportunity to save crucial council services that are a lifeline to many.'

Motion to arrange meeting with Sport Aberdeen also voted down:

Councillor Crockett also proposed a motion in regards to Bucksburn Pool, which would have arranged a strategy meeting between the head of Sport Aberdeen and the four group leaders at the Council.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Martin Grieg then accused the Labour group of double standards, pointing to the closures of Hazlehead and Kincorth Swimming Pools in 2016 under the former Labour-Conservative administration.

Crockett pushed back on Greig’s comments, saying that the decision to close the two pools was ‘widely accepted’ at the time, with a ‘muted’ public response.

However, as reporting from the time by the Press and Journal indicates, ‘hundreds of people signed a petition calling for [the pools] to be saved…’

Regardless, Crockett's motion was also voted down, 8-5.

Future of the libraries and Bucksburn Pool to be decided in the courts

Campaign group Save Aberdeen Libraries blasted the decision on Twitter, saying: ‘Very clear from this morning’s votes (or lack of them in some cases) that Councillors are more interested in following party lines than getting Council to engage with and work for communities. The people of Aberdeen deserve better.’

Pending legal challenges now appear to be the only chance of reopening the six libraries and Bucksburn Pool.

Litigators working alongside the campaigners have already lodged petitions for judicial review at the Court of Session in relation to the closures of Woodside Library and Bucksburn Pool, with more petitions expected to follow.


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