East Ayrshire Council’s Budget and Financial Plan for 2021/22 was unanimously approved at a meeting of full Council this morning, Thursday 4 March 2021, with cross-party support for this year’s spending proposals.
Through ongoing service redesign and financial prudence, the Council has delivered a balanced budget by engaging, listening and thinking creatively about how to deliver financially sustainable services into the future.
Following extensive engagement with Elected Members, Council employees and communities across East Ayrshire, today’s budget includes plans for significant additional funding this year to support recovery and renewal in the wake of COVID-19.
This funding includes over £800K for the creation of training and employment opportunities for young people; over £550K to support and safeguard community wellbeing; £200K to support the sustainability of local community larders; £250K investment in roads, £250K for environmental initiatives in towns and villages and £140K for the Corporate Enforcement Unit to tackle the rise in fly tipping incidents during the pandemic.
Children and young people in receipt of schools meals will also receive an East Ayrshire Gift Card to the value of £50, to coincide with the spring hardship payments later this month.
This budget represents the Council’s continued and ongoing investment in the key services that support communities, with a particular focus on wellbeing, children and young people, and the economy and environment. It builds on the strong foundations of the Council’s Transformation Strategy, which has supported the delivery of high quality services through new and more efficient ways of working that cost less.
Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council advised:
“This has been a challenging and difficult year. People are struggling, they are living through hard and extraordinary times and they are looking for things to get better and for recovery to begin. We need that recovery to begin and for the economy to strive again.
“Our recovery and renewal plans play an important role in our future and this budget provides targeted support to the areas that are so important to all of us. Throughout the pandemic, we have been continuously engaging with our communities. Three themes have been consistently emerging from these conversations: wellbeing and protection; the environment and the importance of our towns and villages; and employment, skills and young people, and these sit at the heart of our budget for 2021/22.
“The additional funding is a very welcome boost as it will provide much needed support for all of our communities.”
Councillor John McGhee, Leader of the local Labour Group said:
“As a Council we have a duty to ensure that our decisions represent the needs of all of our communities and I firmly believe that this budget achieves this.
“The pain and hardship inflicted on our communities by the pandemic will be long lasting but this budget aims to tackle some of those issues, including welfare, poverty and unemployment. By freezing our fees and charges and by investing in our young people and employment initiatives, we can offer hope to those who most need our help and support as we work our way out of the pandemic. Our young people have been particularly disadvantaged by the lockdown restrictions, so the creation of new apprenticeships and training opportunities will provide a renewed optimism for many.”
Councillor Tom Cook, Leader of the local Conservative Group said:
“This budget was agreed jointly by the three main Party leaders and in reaching a consensus, elected members have jointly considered all the issues raised by our communities. I’m confident that the spending plans we’ve set out today, using the resources available to us, will greatly assist our communities going forward.
“There’s something here for everyone. I’m particularly pleased to see our continued commitment to our environment being recognised within these plans. We’ve learned to appreciate our environment and our immediate surroundings much more during lockdown and the additional funds agreed today for our waste and recycling services will help us protect these for the future.”
Councillor Reid added:
“Our continued commitment to invest in our buildings and in our built environment is also reflected in our budget for the year ahead. Our plans for capital expenditure next year will see £84m being spent on new schools and refurbishment of others; over £11m investment in our roads and infrastructure and around £50m on regeneration - including town centres. This spend will deliver real and powerful outcomes for our young people, our communities and our businesses.”
To aid the recovery of local communities and the local economy, Councillors agreed to a Council Tax freeze, with council tax levels for 2021/22 being maintained at 2020/21 levels - made possibly by additional funding from Scottish Government for this purpose, with Band D Council Tax level for 2021/22 remaining unchanged at £1,375.35. All other council fees and charges will be held at 2020/21 levels other than those set nationally or by partners, and Bereavement Services fees will be maintained at 2019/20 level.
Elected members also approved a number of management actions proposed by senior management which align to the key elements of the Transformation Strategy. These actions amount to savings of £7.650m and relate to workforce reduction, including vacancy management, career change opportunities, early retirement options and service redesign.
Council house rents will increase by 1.5%, which equates to an average increase of £1.12 per week over 52 weeks or £1.21 over 48 weeks; garage site charges will also increase by 1.5% - an average of £0.64 per annum to £43.28 and lockups charges will increase by £0.09 to £6.01 over 52 weeks or by £0.10 to £6.51 over 48 weeks.
In addition to the local investment agreed by Council today, East Ayrshire will also benefit from an additional £34m investment from the UK Government, over the next ten years as part of plans to re-profile the Ayrshire Growth Deal as a 10 year programme, helping to accelerate some of the ambitions and aspirations set out in the Deal.
Links to reports: