East Ayrshire Council leader announces series of community investments for 2016/17
Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council has announced a series of investments in local communities, one day after the local authority’s budget for 2016/17 was agreed.
Rather than making cuts to services or compulsory redundancies, the Council has opted to take a holding position using reserves to bridge the funding gap created when the Scottish Government finance settlement for local authorities was less than expected.
The Council’s overall financial position remains strong thanks to savings made through the Transformation Strategy – agreed in 2012 – to reduce costs and improve service efficiencies.
Councillor Reid said: “The investments I’m proposing will support our Community Planning Partnership commitments to tackle the three key areas of child poverty, youth employment and alcohol and drugs misuse.
“I also want to make sure East Ayrshire is as attractive as possible for people to live, visit and work and for pupils and parents to have the best possible education and support, regardless of background or income.
“The impact of Welfare Reform, road safety, road and footpath repairs and, critically, flood defences in Skares and New Cumnock are also hugely important community concerns.
“I’m determined to put money on the table to address these and make sure they are dealt with now and for those who need them most.”
The key points from Councillor Reid’s announcement are:
• Extension of the Graduate Intern programme with 10 additional places.
• Three additional Early Years Community Practitioners to improve the life chances of their children.
• Action to reduce the chance of flooding at New Cumnock and at Skares, funded from the revised Capital Programme. Detailed flood studies will be produced for Dalrymple, Dalmellington, Catrine, and the Irvine Valley which would include Kilmarnock to see if there is any other work needed in those areas.
• East Ayrshire to be promoted at its very best as a tourism destination to encourage visitors to come, return and enjoy the many attractions on offer.
• External home enhancements to improve the appearance and energy efficiency of council houses, and help reduce home energy bills.
• Backdated payments to Kinship Carers to be paid through a one-off additional contribution to East Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership.
• Additional funding for staff at the East Ayrshire Citizens’ Advice Bureau to provide money advice as the impact of welfare reforms continue to cause concern.
• Road and footway repair programme in housing estates to address the worst areas damaged by weather in 2016/17.
• Establishment of a Derelict Buildings Grant scheme of £500,000 funded from the Restoring Communities and Regeneration Capital Fund monies. Work to be done on the historic buildings at Dunlop Street, Kilmarnock.
• Two additional staff to further develop the schools prevention programme over two years, supporting the Community Planning Partnership in tackling alcohol and drug abuse. The aim is to ensure that best practice in Health and Wellbeing is embedded as a key part of everyday learning and teaching.
• The creation of a family summer programme in Dalmellington and Onthank supported by the Council and designed by Centrestage.
• Funding for the Ayrshire Credit Union to develop Basic Bank Accounts for those who need them now that DWP benefits are paid to bank accounts.
• Increasing the school footwear and clothing grant to £75 from £50.
• A pilot Park and Stride initiative to help reduce the number of parents dropping children off at school in inappropriate or unsafe places aimed at reducing the risks to children.
• A partnership with Virgin Money and the Scottish Schools Pipes and Drums Trust to establish a Kilmarnock Schools Pipe Band. These organisations will contribute £50,000 a year with the Council putting in a further £10,000 a year.
• The development of new, sustainable and forward-looking proposals by East Ayrshire Leisure Trust to attract a wider audience to the Dick Institute in partnership with the Third Sector if possible, with any capital costs funded from the Transformation Capital Fund.
• Installation of town centre Wi-Fi in five areas – Kilmarnock, Cumnock, Galston, Dalmellington and Stewarton, signalling our towns as modern connected places.
• £100,000 from the Renewal and Repairs Fund to be used in consultation with the Local Community Action Plan groups to enhance the town squares in Cumnock, Stewarton and Darvel.
• Similar new facilities to the Lilyhill Gardens initiative, winner of the national IESE Gold award – with sites to be identified in the revised Strategic Housing Improvement Plan.
Councillor Reid concluded: “I make no apology for the upbeat nature of these proposals and for our forward looking budget.
“The nature and scope of these investments, coupled with our ongoing work to make East Ayrshire a great place to live work and visit, will make real and lasting differences for every one of our residents and local communities.
“We don’t deal in doom and disaster – we deal in doing and delivering for our communities.
“Those aims were at the heart of our budget and I’m delighted we’ve been able to make these decisions despite a very challenging financial backdrop in the public sector.”