£20 million underspend for local projects

FORMARTINE councillors have broadly welcomed proposals to allocate efficiency savings made by the council to local projects in need of funding.

Last week’s Formartine Area Committee saw councillors from the area choose from 18 local projects which had been put forward to receive funding, including village halls at Collieston, Udny Green, Potterton and Foveran.

Council leader Jim Gifford told the Times: “It’s a golden opportunity for all areas. These savings have come about because of council efficiency, and we’re going to put it to best use. There were bids for twice as much money as we have to spend, so it’s going to be difficult deciding which projects deserve funding. However, there’s a good selection, and many have been waiting for years for an opportunity like this.

“We’ll aim to get the funding to these projects inside 100 days. We have an incentive to get the funding to these projects as soon as possible. It’s good news, and a fantastic position for the local authority to be in - I don’t think any other council in Scotland has found itself in a position of having more money than expected.”

Ellon councillor Isobel Davidson told the Times that the funding would improve facilities for a number of communities in the area.

She said: “I am very supportive of proposals in the Ellon and District Ward, such as replacing the footbridge at Newburgh, a new roof for Foveran Hall and expansion at Collieston Community Centre.

“These projects have considerable community support and improve the infrastructure in these communities.”

However, Mid Formartine councillor Allan Hendry said that the savings were evidence of inefficiency within the council.

He told the Times: “While the Council is doing the very best that it can to present their £20m underspend as a good news story, the truth is that it was not a planned ‘saving’ but an indication of inefficiency. Essentially, the Administration has failed to deliver over £2m of services in the last twelve months, which it had committed to and budgeted for – and that comes against a backdrop of already swingeing reductions in the Council budget.

“Instead of addressing the serious reductions in the standards of service which are concerning most of the people, the ‘Alliance’ has chosen to embark on an ill-conceived and badly-planned spending spree in an effort to court popularity.