Aberdeen City Council is to invest more than £200 million over the next five years growing and renewing the schools estate as part of its spending plans.
An additional £17.7m was set aside during this period for the latest digital technology to modernise learning environments and equip pupils with 21st Century skills.
The commitment to maximising life opportunities for young people came as the council set its revenue and capital budgets for the coming financial year as well as agreeing longer-term measures aimed at creating a greener, safer and more inclusive city.
Despite facing increasing costs and demand, the council maintained its focus on combating climate change, transforming public services, and tackling poverty and inequality through support for the Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP).
Budget awards in 2023/24 include £1.6m for the Fairer Aberdeen Fund, which supports deserving projects identified by local communities; £500,000 to the Community Food Initiatives North East; and £400,000 to top up the Scottish Government’s Welfare Fund.
And there will be a £100,000 contribution, spread evenly over the next three years, to help regenerate Union Street in response to both the council’s empty shops plan and wider work following the Union Street Summit. Details are to be announced in the months ahead.
Councillor Alex McLellan, convener of the Finance and Resources Committee, said: “The cost-of-living crisis is hitting everyone hard, with soaring food and fuel bills, and we have targeted spending to support those most in need – providing additional spend to foodbanks, the Scottish Welfare Fund and our financial inclusion team – whilst also protecting the likes of the Fairer Aberdeen Fund.
“As well as protecting vital services from cuts, our budget commits to investing over £200m in our school estate and just under £100m in transforming our beachfront and city centre – we are committed to ensuring Aberdeen is a place people want to live, work, study, raise a family, and a place where businesses want to invest.”
Councillor Ian Yuill, Co-Leader of Aberdeen City Council, said: “We have prioritised what matters most to people – education, the environment, roads and transport – while demonstrating sound financial management that will serve the city well in the years ahead.
“In providing for Aberdeen’s most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents, there is an increasing emphasis on prevention and early intervention – which is better for the public pound, but more importantly, for people.”
For 2023/24, the council’s general revenue fund stands at £540m and its capital fund at £170m. To help offset increasing demand and costs – including an extra £5m for utility bills in 2023/24 – council tax is to rise by 5% and fees and charges by broadly 10%.
The total spend on Education and Children’s Services for 2023/24 is £225m and some £117m is being “passported” to the Integrated Joint Board for health and social care.
Education is also key element of capital spend over the next five years. This includes:
- £91.5m for a new secondary school for Hazlehead and Countesswells;
- £13.2m to extend Bucksburn Academy;
- £27.5m for first of two new primaries in the Bucksburn/Newhills area;
- £27.5m for the first of two new primaries in Grandhome.
The budget also includes a funding commitment of £19.4m for the Hydrogen Hub, a joint venture with bp to produce renewable energy. And this year the council introduced its first annual carbon budget to help measure the success of environmental policies.
Other allocations in the coming financial year include £4.5m for Sport Aberdeen, which runs the city’s leisure facilities, and £824,000 for the Aberdeen Sports Village. The Common Good Fund budget, which was also agreed today, includes £1.3m to maintain public parks across the city and £711,000 for Aberdeen Performing Arts, which operates cultural venues.
To give residents a greater say in how the public pound is managed, a major public consultation on spending priorities will take place ahead of next year’s annual budget setting.