Christmas is a time of year when friends, family and community gather closer to celebrate and reflect on the year just past. It’s also a time of year when issues of inequality, loneliness and isolation are thrown into sharp relief. For many people it’s a hard time of year, and in these times of insecurity, food and fuel poverty and the increasing impact of Universal Credit, it’s all the more important that we all pull together to make the best of life for everyone in our communities.
For that reason it’s heartening to see the wonderful work being done with our partners in public, private and voluntary sectors, coupled with the amazing initiatives which are coming out in our communities as a result of our Community Led Action Plans. Organisations such as Yipworld, Centrestage and CVO, to name just a few, are making a real impact on the everyday lives of people in need. It’s proof that third sector organisations are not just tick box exercises but really make a life changing difference to many people of all ages and circumstances.
There’s no doubt that austerity has hit our communities hard. As a council we’ve had to pay an extra £6.1m in one year alone to mitigate the effects of the introduction of Universal Credit. We’ve got specialist, multi-disciplinary teams working hard to try to lessen the impact on our residents. But we’ve also done a lot this year that we can be very proud of.
In Cumnock, the new Farmfoods with five new retail units is nearing completion as the jewel in the crown of the town’s redevelopment. The former Mercat Hotel has now also been restored, bringing yet another historic building back into good use. Meanwhile work is continuing on the exciting new Barony Campus, bringing state of the art facilities to young people and the wider community alike.
It is this kind of inclusive ethos in education, bringing pupils of all ages, abilities and backgrounds together under one roof which underpins our aims for the future of our area.
Across East Ayrshire, we have ambitious plans for our Council housing and are proposing an extensive programme of new build homes and significant improvements to our current stock, while in health, we continue to achieve zero hospital delayed discharges, and are supporting people in a more homely setting.
Above all, this year has been about meeting and facing challenges, working together and realising that we can all draw strength from each other, give each other dignity and respect, remember to be kind, and move forward in hope, knowing that with co-operation and team work, we can all achieve something positive.