Aberdeenshire Council expected to exceed winter budget

Aberdeenshire Council is expecting to go £1.2 million over budget for its winter maintenance costs this year.

Gritters have been in constant use for more than 60 days across the region.
Gritters have been in constant use for more than 60 days across the region.

The revelation was made as members discussed an update on the local authority’s finances last week.

It emerged that gritters have been in constant use for more than 60 days, while 75% of the authority’s salt supplies have been used already.

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A report before councillors said that winter maintenance was forecast to spend £1.223m over the allocated limit that was set last March.

Councillor Gwyneth Petrie raised the matter after noting that the council would use up almost all of its winter maintenance reserves.

She said: “We’ve had more wintry weather this week, I think it’s set to continue and will no doubt continue throughout the next couple of months.”

Ms Petrie asked if there was a plan in place should the council go over budget.

Director of environment and infrastructure services, Alan Wood, reassured her that he would look for resources to cover it. However if this was not possible, the council could look at obtaining further reserves elsewhere.

Mr Wood revealed that to the end of December the council had used just over 30,000 tonnes of grit and salt – leaving just 10,000 tonnes for the rest of the winter.

He also said that since November gritters have been in action across Aberdeenshire for 65 days, covering “several thousand” treatments.

As part of the financial review, councillors were told that the local authority had spent £466.9m out of its £686.8m budget by the end of November.

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This means that 68% of the council’s cash has been used after eight months.

Currently, the council is expected to be £6.9m over budget by the end of the financial year, and officers are working to find options to reduce this figure and break even.

Reserves are still available for the local authority to use if they are needed.

Council leader Mark Findlater said the review was an “estimated position based on known information” and could change in the future.

He also noted that some of the difficulties the council faces are due to the “economic climate we find ourselves in”.

He explained: “The extent of challenges encountered couldn’t have been forseen.

“The current out of balance position highlights some of the financial challenges that will continue into the new financial year.”

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Council deputy leader Anne Stirling added: “The cost of doing business and providing services has increased and this shows no sign of abating anytime soon.”