East Ayrshire Council set its budget for 2017/18 today (23 February 2017) aimed at continuing to deliver high quality services to residents, minimising cuts and mitigating the impact of Welfare Reform, whilst maintaining the momentum of the £500 million Capital Investment Programme unveiled this time last year.
In addition, Councillor Douglas Reid also outlined a number of pledges in his capacity as Council Leader, which include:
£500k to mitigate the worst impact of Welfare Reform.
£363k towards a new Employability Hub, bringing Ayrshire College, the DWP, Skills Development Scotland and specialist Council Officers together under one roof.
£300k to upgrade roads in residential areas.
£105k to enable primary schools to engage in the Heritage Heroes Award.
£81k to continue with the Schools of Football at Cumnock and Grange Academy until 2020 and to include the new Kilmarnock Academy from 2018.
A free school lunch for every child taking part in the summer Active Schools Programme 2017.
Councillor Reid said: “Setting a budget is an incredibly difficult balancing act, especially against such national and international political and economic uncertainty and we’ve been helped thanks to excellent feedback from consultation with residents and tenants.
“We listened to what people had to say and our budget prioritises investment in people, communities and businesses, helping folk to help themselves through education, regeneration, developing locally led action plans and economic growth.
“Against such a difficult background we will see pupils from five primary schools and two secondary schools moving into new state of the art buildings in 2017/18, major development in Cumnock Town Centre being completed and new industrial units for rent at Moorfield, and the completion of the new Ingram Business Centre at John Finnie Street, Kilmarnock.
“New housing is also planned for Hurlford, New Cumnock and Darvel and, by 2021, East Ayrshire is likely to have more than 1,000 newly built council and social rented houses.”
In line with most other Councils across Scotland and, for the first time in a decade, Council Tax in East Ayrshire will go up by 3% to help protect front line services and keep the capital investment programme on track.
The Council Tax Reduction Scheme means that those entitled to benefits will be protected from the increase.
Councillor Reid explained: “The Scottish Government introduced legislation to change Council Tax charges from 1 April 2017 for properties banded from E to H.
“We have no discretion over these changes and must apply them.
“Public sector cuts look set to continue for the foreseeable future and are set against a backdrop of increasing demand for services and an uncertain political and economic landscape.
“The Fraser of Allander Institute has said that the challenges facing public finances mean that bold and radical solutions will be needed and we are examining how we can deliver our services in the future with much less money available.
“Last year’s budget set our course in East Ayrshire for the future and today’s budget helps continue that momentum.
“I have confidence in the people of East Ayrshire and we will continue working with all of our stakeholders in the community and in other agencies to identify ways to work smarter and more efficiently to make sure East Ayrshire meets the challenges that lie ahead.”