Council sets balanced budget for 2020/21

East Ayrshire Council has set a balanced budget for 2020/21, following its established well-planned, prudent approach which recognises that people are at the heart of the process.

Although faced with a set of constantly changing financial variables, over the last few weeks, the Council remains fully committed to its vision for a fairer, kinder, connected East Ayrshire and will continue to support its main strategic priorities:

  • Improving outcomes for vulnerable children and young people
  • Tackling social isolation for older people
  • Enable community led regeneration
  • Challenge child poverty

The Council has been careful to ensure that these priorities will not be compromised by the 2020/21 budget proposals, despite having to reduce costs by £10.6 million for the coming year.

When the Council’s Transformation Strategy 2017/22 was approved in 2018, it included three-year spending budgets for each service, based on assumptions at that time. This signalled an indicative budget gap for the three years to 2021/22 of £32.205 million and since then management have been reviewing services on an ongoing basis to identify what, why, when, how and where the necessary changes can be made. Management actions have been aimed at reducing costs whilst ensuring service levels continue to be protected.

Depute Leader, Councillor Elena Whitham advised:

“I am the first to acknowledge that this is not a good financial settlement for local government but even after making the necessary savings, we will still deliver improvements to services that will bring life changing benefits to children and families across East Ayrshire.

  • From August 2020 all parents and carers will benefit from 1140 hours of free pre-school childcare, available in new and refurbished early childhood centres across East Ayrshire. This will improve the life chances of both children and their parents, and create 300 new jobs at the same time.
  • New school counselling services will promote early and preventative action on mental health.
  • Over the next 10 years, £61million will be spent improving our roads and bridges network, with investment of £8 million in each of the next three years.
  • £10 million is being made available to move care closer to the community with the creation of a new Wellbeing Hub in Kilmarnock Town Centre in collaboration with the NHS to move care closer to the community.
  • We have also taken the decision to freeze charges for Day Care Services and to scrap charges for Respite Care.
  • £45k has been allocated for the extension of the Play in Prison initiative until August 2021, to allow for continuity while a service review to takes place.

“Our Capital programme continues to deliver for all of our communities, with over £1billion of investment in tangible assets including new and refurbished schools; new and improved council houses; significantly improved roads and bridges; investment in cultural gems like Dean Castle and the Palace Theatre; new industrial premises bringing jobs; town centre regeneration and telecare advancements to let people stay in the own homes. Funding has been set aside for new schools for North West Kilmarnock, Stewarton and Dalmellington dependent on match funding from the Scottish Government. These schools will be built to the highest environmental standards in terms of carbon reduction.

“Our commitment to tackle climate change is clear, with an allocation of £5million towards new energy efficiency and carbon reduction projects; this in addition to the £24.5 million we will spend with the UK government to make East Ayrshire a national centre for energy research and development. Our young people will play a key role in helping to tackle this agenda, building on the remarkable awareness of the challenges ahead which they demonstrated so clearly at our Climate Change Conference late last year.

“I believe that this budget demonstrates our absolute commitment to those who need our services, our firm belief in those who work for us to deliver them, and our enduring confidence in the ability, capacity and readiness of our communities to work in partnership with us.”

Budget Highlights

  • Footwear and clothing grants will increase by another £10 to £120 from August.
  • The Welfare Reform Fund will be topped up adding £161,000 to the balance.
  • £600,000 will be set aside to plan for any significant outbreak of coronavirus in Scotland.
  • East Ayrshire Council Tax will rise by 4.84%, which equates to £1375.35 for band D households, in line with Scottish Government recommendations.
  • Council house rents will increase by 1.5%, which equates to £1.10 per week and fees and charges for council services will increase by at least 2.5%.

Parking Changes

  • ‘Free After Three’ parking scheme will be trialled for one year at the former Wilko Car Park in Kilmarnock – implementation date still to be determined
  • A transferable on street parking ticket will be introduced in Kilmarnock
  • Parking proposals for Stewarton and Cumnock will not be pursued
  • Residents’ parking scheme will be explored
  • Further review of Saturday parking in Kilmarnock to take place

Waste Changes

  • The special nappy/medical waste collection service will stop with additional green bins being provided where needed
  • Residents will be able to register for a permit to use local recycling centres
  • An annual charge of £30 per brown bin will be introduced for the collection of garden waste with effect from 1 March 2021
  • Opportunities to collaborate with @southayrshire will be pursued to achieve further savings on the cost of waste disposal.

The full budget paper can be seen here.

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