Council budget to be set this Thursday

This coming Thursday (10 February), Aberdeenshire Council will formally set its revenue budget for the financial year starting in April.

Despite Aberdeenshire Council facing the worst budget cuts in its history, I do not expect the budget meeting to be especially lengthy or dramatic. This is because the bulk of the cuts the Council will make in 2011/12 were voted through by the ruling Liberal Democrat/Conservative coalition - with SNP support - at the full council meeting on 25 November.

The cuts the Council will decide on Thursday will be small in comparison to the cuts already voted through. What the Council has to do is to agree some further budget reductions to balance its planned revenue expenditure in 2011/12 with its expected income.

Scottish councils depend on the Scottish Government for the vast bulk - around 80 per cent - of the money they need to meet the cost of providing public services. Councils raise only around 20 per cent of their income from the Council Tax. But by enforcing a Council Tax freeze, the Scottish Government has removed from councils any real say over the total amount they have to spend.

Effectively, for 2011/12, every Scottish council has had its income - and therefore its total budget - decided for it by the Scottish Government.

The position immediately after Christmas was that Aberdeenshire Council needed to identify further savings of over