A budget "shaped by our people, for our people" has been set by South Ayrshire Council today (1 March) as Councillors agreed spending plans for people and places across South Ayrshire.
The £186 million revenue budget for 2018/19 and eight-year £237 million capital programme 2018/19-2025/26 will support the delivery of the new Council Plan – also agreed today – which sets out the difference the Council wants to make for the people of South Ayrshire.
In agreeing the budget, Councillors approved a Council Tax increase of 3 per cent, which will raise Council Tax for a Band D property in South Ayrshire by £35.66 – or around 69p per week – to £1,224.23.
The £53.8 million this raises will help fund and protect Council services over the next year.
Councillors used feedback from this year's 'Balancing the Budget' consultation to determine funding priorities as well as areas for efficiencies.
A number of savings proposals were removed from consideration ahead of today's budget meeting as a direct result of the consultation responses and the better than expected grant funding settlement from the Scottish Government, which not only maintained funding levels, but included additional monies for social care.
This has resulted in Councillors agreeing further budget savings of almost £3.7 million, bringing the total to just under £6 million. These are mainly based around reviewing work processes, revising staffing structures and changing financing arrangements – minimising the impact on frontline services, people and communities.
Thanks to the Council's prudent and effective financial management, the budget also includes additional investment in key areas that support the Council's vision for Our People, Our Place. This includes:
Increasing the school clothing grant by 50 per cent to £75 pounds (£66,000)
£65,000 to support the schools at the heart of the community project and to provide additional holiday activities for schools in the most socially-disadvantaged areas
£20,000 to reinstate a fund to support community galas
£17,000 to cover the letting costs for breakfast clubs in our schools
Supporting the development of place plans for the five towns and villages programme, with £100,000 for improved signage and community engagement
£75,000 to support staff training and retraining initiatives to ensure the Council can deliver the right services in the best possible way.
Councillors agreed the use of £1.5 million of uncommitted reserves for revenue spending, and a further £3 million from uncommitted reserves split evenly between the Repairs and Renewals Fund and the Capital Fund.
They also approved funding of £71 million pounds for the South Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, which is an increase of 2.5 per cent on previous years. Like all other Council services, health and social care will have to meet necessary additional costs, such as funding for pay awards, and that will be reflected in how the Integrated Joint Board (which is responsible for the Partnership) plans to balance its budget. Combined with Scottish Government funding via the NHS, that will come to a total of almost £79 million.
Council Leader Douglas Campbell said: "What we have agreed today is an unprecedented budget for this Council – a budget that has been shaped by our people, for our people.
"It's the outcome of consultation and engagement with thousands of people across South Ayrshire who took the time to have their say – and who we have listened and responded to.
As a result, this budget genuinely balances the resources we have with the services and facilities people want and need, and I want to thank those people for their participation.
"From the outset last year, we have been clear as an administration about what matters to us and that is our people and our places. They sit at the heart of everything we do and the ambitions we have not just for the Council, but for the whole South Ayrshire area.
"We want South Ayrshire to be the best it can be and for all people and places to have the opportunity to reach their full potential and, through this budget, we are laying the foundations for a strengthened South Ayrshire that works for all, but especially the most in need.
"I'm pleased we have addressed the restrictions of the current financial climate head-on, while taking steps to ensure the impact and burden of balancing the budget doesn't fall on those least able to pay.
"That's not been easy, and we've had to do this while meeting necessary costs like pay awards for staff and increased contractual costs – all of which impacts on how much we have to spend.
"That's why we can be proud that we have agreed a balanced budget today that not only bridges the challenging budget gap we've had to meet, but also provides an ambitious programme of investment that will improve lives and make a difference where it matters most.
"This budget invests in our vision, in our people, and in our places to create a strong, sustainable South Ayrshire – and that's something we all want to see."
Councillor Brian McGinley, Depute Leader of the Council, said: "Our budget for 2018/19 is testament to our commitment to deliver for our people and our places, and targets investment and support where it can have the biggest impact.
"By boosting the monies available for the likes of clothing grants, breakfast clubs and holiday activities, we will make positive progress in tackling poverty, inequality and social injustice in South Ayrshire and supporting some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
"I'm also pleased that, on the back of the pilot of Our People, Our Place – our schools as community hubs programme – in Newton Primary and Ayr Academy, we're putting money into making more public services, help and support available on people's doorsteps. We know from the recent pilot that such an approach really can and will make a difference.
"We've also done all we can to keep the impact of the budget cuts we've had to make away from our frontline services – and that will continue for future years with further savings focused around our organisational structure, our properties and our ways of working.
"Given what we were facing, this budget is not only the best possible outcome; it's a positive outcome that will make life better for our people and our places."
At the Council meeting, a new eight-year capital investment programme – which sets out total investment of almost £237 million until 2025/26 – was also agreed.
Key features of the programme include:
More than £43 million strategic investment in ICT
An additional £12 million for a new 'all-through' campus at Carrick Academy, taking the budget to more than £19 million as part of a total investment package of more than £74 million in the education estate
£3 million more in 2018/19 for road reconstruction and improvement
£1 million to support Maybole town centre regeneration
£750,000 to support the implementation of 20 mile per hour speed limits in towns and villages
£855,000 to improve public toilet provision.
Independent Councillors, Alec Clark and Brian Connolly, added: "Through this budget, we're delivering investment that will make a significant difference for communities right across South Ayrshire, including those in our rural areas, and that is great to see.
"Our spending programme highlights the ambitions we have for South Ayrshire and backs up what we want to achieve through our Council Plan to give people the best possible opportunities, a sense of value and a real pride in their communities.
"That's particularly clear in our capital programme which will have a positive impact, in one way or another, on every single person in South Ayrshire. It will deliver investment that benefits children and families, adults and older people, visitors and businesses, and our wider communities, as part of a record-breaking package worth – on average – around £30 million per year. This is something that will create a legacy for years to come, whether it's investment in schools, roads, sport and leisure, or public spaces.
"And by putting the monies needed into our ICT and infrastructure, we can really start to transform how we deliver services on the ground, so there really is something for everyone.
"We have worked tirelessly to get to this place and – crucially – we have listened to what people want. That's not something that has ever happened in such a meaningful way before and well and truly confirms this budget as one for our people and our places."
Full details of the budget agreed by Councillors today can be found here.
Council Tax notices confirming the increased Council Tax charges for 2018/19 will issue to households later this month.