The leader of Aberdeenshire Council has denied claims of unrest in the administration as a plan for the next five years was finally agreed.
The new administration’s programme of business was unanimously approved at a recent meeting.
It sets out six key priorities that Aberdeenshire Council aims to achieve by 2027.
By identifying areas to focus on, it has been designed to help with producing the upcoming council budget while dealing with the cost of living crisis.
But the plan comes six months on from May’s election – and when most other councils agreed theirs.
The delay fuelled concerns from the administration that council leader councillor Mark Findlater was “all over the place”.
And one colleague in the ruling group even branded him a “village fool” as the issue dragged on.
Mr Findlater defended the six-month wait, saying it was needed to ensure the council has the right “vision and direction” for the years ahead.
The Conservative councillor said: “It’s taken a lot of hard work to do this. You never rush a plan and we’ve had an awful lot of information to get through.
“If we are going to have a good plan right for the folk, we had to work hard at it.
“There’s no point in writing a plan on the back of a cigarette packet – this is not that.”
He added: “The plan had consensus across the chamber, which proves to me that it is a good plan, they couldn’t pick any holes in it.”
The council leader said he was not aware of any tension within the administration and added: “My door is always open if somebody wants to talk to me, they just need to knock.
“We have a very strong administration of 46 councillors and we are all content to move forward in this direction.
“All 70 councillors are behind the council plan and they can take ownership of it.”
Mr Findlater explained that the new Aberdeenshire Council plan comes at a time when the pressure on local government has never been so heavy.
He explained: “There are massive increases in costs across all services as a result of rising inflation, and a greater demand than ever before as we recover from the pandemic.”
Mr Findlater believes the plan’s priorities “capture and epitomise” the key areas for the council’s focus and investment.
He also noted that the local authority has to make “some very difficult decisions” in the years to come as it tries to balance the books.
Learning for life
The council is focused on preparing the region’s children and young people for the world of work.
It also aims to ensure care experienced young people and those with additional needs can “thrive” and get sufficient support to meet their full potential.
In order to meet these priorities Aberdeenshire Council will work to ensure youngsters can hit literacy and numeracy targets.
Health and wellbeing
The local authority will set out to provide “good quality, energy efficient and accessible” housing across the region.
It will also focus on improving the mental health of residents by providing more sports and cultural activities.
The council aims to improve the lives of those at risk of falling into poverty and those already facing hardships.
Aberdeenshire Council is committed to reaching a 75%% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and hopes to be net zero by 2045.
It will look to increase recycling across the region and reduce the volume of “unnecessary” waste going to landfill.
Active travel will also be a focus over the next five years.
The council will look at improving digital connectivity.
It also wants to create a “culture of entrepreneurship” by providing support to those starting up their own businesses.
There will also be a focus on helping people into work and investment into tourism.
Infrastructure and public assets
The key aim here is to deliver an “ambitious yet affordable” capital programme.
Its council estate will be looked at to ensure it is sustainable and fit for purpose.
The SNP group proposed some amendments to the plan that will be adopted.
One of the changes included more recognition for the region’s young people.
The group believed the plan focused too heavily on getting children through school and off to work.
They asked for the region’s youngsters to be “actively involved in decision making” where possible.
Group leader councillor Gwyneth Petrie said: “Young people need to be at the heart of what we do.
“They are our future, not just for the role that they will play in our workforce, but because of who they are and what they contribute.”