East Ayrshire Council’s budget for 2022/23 was approved at a meeting of Full Council this morning, Thursday 24 February 2022. Elected members from all parties agreed proposals which will see considerable investment in the local economy, the wellbeing of residents and in employment and training opportunities which will help to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and allow communities to recover and thrive.
Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council said: “Setting the budget this year was a difficult task and I wholeheartedly commend the work of colleagues across all parties in helping us get to this point today. We’ve been faced with a series of ever-changing factors, but I’m proud of the way in which colleagues have put aside political differences for the benefit of the people and communities of East Ayrshire.
“We’ve put our communities at the heart of this exercise and collectively we have agreed an incredible £11m package of investments which will make a real and lasting difference to the lives of local people.
“Our £6m investment in skills and training - including 200 jobs for young people - is a unique opportunity which will give local folk a real chance to gain long term meaningful employment, and we cannot underestimate the positive impact this will have on our local economy both now and in the longer term.”
Councillor John McGhee, Leader of East Ayrshire Labour Group said: “Today’s budget will deliver real change and positive outcomes for local people. We can’t ignore how much local people and local businesses have suffered over the last two years, but I’m confident that our joint decisions today will help make a real difference.
“We’re helping over 4000 low income households almost immediately with an additional £100 payment; we’re creating training and employment opportunities for 200 local people and we’re investing in the health and wellbeing of children and young people who are the future of our communities.”
Councillor Tom Cook, Leader of East Ayrshire Conservative Group said: “Our 2022/23 budget is firmly focussed on recovery and I’m confident that the options we have jointly agreed will greatly assist our communities going forward.
“Our £6m training and employment scheme will transform the lives of local people and will also be a much needed boost for the wellbeing of local people and our local economy and I would encourage local businesses to support this scheme.
“The next few years will also present considerable financial challenges for the Council, which we must not lose sight of, but this year’s budget is helping to put the communities of East Ayrshire back on track.”
Collaborative working and a joint willingness to find real solutions to benefit local communities sat at the heart of today’s budget setting meeting at East Ayrshire Council. The budget was prepared following extensive elected member engagement and direction from the Budget Working Group, as they considered a number of challenges in respect of the pandemic and the wider consequences this is having on communities and Council resources.
Uncertainty still looms large over the Council’s financial plan for next year and beyond. The pandemic is entering its third financial year, with new and emerging concerns leading to significant additional costs for households across East Ayrshire – including inflation, the availability of goods and services and the planned increase in energy pricing.
The impact of the pandemic is acutely reflected in the rise in the number of people unemployed in East Ayrshire; the most recent unemployment statistics reveal that unemployment levels across all age groups are higher than pre-pandemic levels. The situation is further exacerbated by the withdrawal of many of the grant funded schemes that provided a vital lifeline to individuals and businesses during the pandemic.
To alleviate these pressures, the Council plans to create a training and employment scheme, which will provide 200 apprenticeship and training opportunities within the Council, partner organisations and local businesses over the next three years. Placements will last for at least two years with scope to increase this further for specialist and craft apprenticeships, with additional opportunities to gain industry recognised accreditations. These opportunities will be available to all East Ayrshire residents, including those currently on the Council’s employability programme, and posts will be aligned to the Council’s existing Apprenticeship Framework.
The Council’s commitment to supporting recovery and renewal in local communities is also reflected in a total planned capital investment of £1.1b by 2030/31. With a clear focus on children and young people, economy and environment, and wellbeing, the planned investment for the year will be £130m, with £17m being spent on new schools and refurbishments; £13m investment on roads and infrastructure and around £10m to regenerate local towns and villages as well as Ayrshire Growth Deal projects.
Investment in local housing will continue, with the Council’s new house build programme set to deliver 101 new properties in the year ahead, with 50 homes being re-rendered, 800 receiving an efficient heating system and 450 receiving upgrades to kitchens, bathrooms and rewiring, subject to Coronavirus restrictions. It is hoped that these investments will bring significant benefits to the local economy, boost local employment and local spend and grow plans for community wealth building. Carbon reduction will feature prominently in these investments as the Council strives to meet its 2030 net zero commitments.
A new permanent Lead Officer post will be created within the Violence Against Women Partnership and a Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC) will be established to facilitate, monitor and evaluate information sharing across multi agencies to enable appropriate action to be taken to support victims of domestic abuse and increase public safety. This will complement existing arrangements in place to support violence against women.
Fees and charges will remain unchanged, at 2020 levels. Council Tax will increase by 3%, with the Band D Council Tax for 2022/23 increasing to £1,416.61; Council house rents will increase by 1.5%, which equates to an average increase of £1.13 per week over 52 weeks, or £1.23 over 48 weeks; garage site rentals will also increase by 1.5% - an average of 65p per annum to £43.93, and lock-ups will increase 9p to £6.10 over 52 weeks, or by 10p to £6.61 over 48 weeks.
As part of the budget discussions, Elected Members also approved £6m of expenditure reduction measures identified by services across the Council, which relate predominantly to service redesign options. These actions will address the current £6m budget gap, facilitating a break even position and a balanced budget for 2022/23 without the need to utilise reserves.
Looking ahead, Elected Members approved proposals for the development of a new strategic plan to drive transformational change over the next five years. The new Plan will be informed by extensive engagement and consultation with partners, communities and other key stakeholders which will take place over the next few months.
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