Two major plans for Deeside have been affected following a meeting of the full council last week to discuss the budget for the coming year.
Councillors Peter Argyle and Karen Clark, both Liberal Democrats, were disappointed by the rejection of a proposed £4 million community resilience fund, the aim of which was to help put Deeside and other Aberdeenshire communities back on their feet after the flooding.
At the meeting, on Thursday, February 11, the opposition Alliance Group put forward plans to support communities recovering from the recent flooding and develop projects seeking to strengthen communities against future emergencies. They also proposed a new fund of £1m “to boost town centre vibrancy across Aberdeenshire”.
Speaking after the meeting, representative for Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside, cllr Argyle, said: “It is hugely disappointing that these proposals were rejected out of hand by SNP councillors and their colleagues.
“The funding was available within our reserves and would simply have required the administration to drop some of its pet projects, such as a Renewable Energy Fund or a rather vague Capital Reserve Fund, to support this vital work in communities.
“Disappointingly the SNP chose not to support these proposals, which fit perfectly with the council’s agreed strategic priorities.”
Cllr Clark, of Banchory & Mid Deeside, said: “The recent floods have shown what nature can throw at us. There are other challenges our communities face, not just natural disasters but issues like the local economic downturn.
“Banchory has many empty shops at the moment. People are worried about this and our proposals to focus on improving resilience, together with a fund dedicated to building town centre vibrancy, would have been of significant benefit.
“The rhetoric from the co-leaders of the council in advance of the meeting was all about listening to others, so this outright rejection was disappointing.”
Responding to cllrs Argyle and Clark, cllr Richard Thomson, co-leader of the council, said: “I’m disappointed by the remarks of cllr Clark and cllr Argyle. If they had been serious about getting any of their proposals included in the budget, they could have picked up the phone at any time to speak to us.
“Local residents can be assured that there is more than adequate flexibility in the council’s revenue and capital budgets to deal with any requirements arising out of the flooding. If cllrs Clark and Argyle have good ideas that they genuinely wish to see implemented then I’d encourage them to come and talk to us.”
Meanwhile, cllr Jill Webster, the Conservative councillor for Banchory and Mid Deeside, was disappointed that the Banchory Community Sports Facility has been re-profiled from having a 2016/ 2017 completion date to a 2017/ 2018 completion date.
Speaking following the meeting, she said: “I was obviously concerned when there was a change of administration in the council when the SNP Partnership took over, that they would have different priorities, so I am greatly relieved that the project is still in the Capital Plan.
“However it is disappointing that the project has slipped. This is an exemplar project as it is a partnership between the community and the council with the community raising £700,000 towards the project. The fundraisers are doing an absolutely amazing job and are nearing their target and I am sure they will feel disappointed too.
“I have urged officers to get the promised spades in the ground as soon as possible. We are expecting this towards the end of 2016 and I have sought reassurance that this is the case.”
SNP councillor for Banchory and Mid Deeside Linda Clark said: “We very much appreciate the tremendous efforts made by local fundraisers to contribute to the cost of the facilities. This is a significant multi-million project and I’m certain Cllr Webster would agree with me that it’s essential we take the time to get the design right, so it meets the needs of the community today and well into the future.
“Good progress is being made on that front and we expect to see reports coming forward to area committee and policy & resources committees over the next few months agreeing designs, timetable for development and agreement to proceed to tender.”