A budget for “young people, the older generation and everyone in between” was agreed at a special meeting of South Ayrshire Council today (Wednesday 10 February) as elected members approved spending plans for 2010/11.
Councillors also agreed to freeze Council Tax levels for the third year in a row, which will benefit every household in South Ayrshire. This keeps Band D Council Tax at the 2007/08 level of £1,153.95.
As part of the budget-setting process, Councillors considered priorities for the 2010/11 revenue budget of £269.186 million – an increase of £2.7 million on 2009/10.
The revenue budget funds the running costs of the Council’s operations, including the costs of employing staff, operating Council facilities and supporting the capital programme. South Ayrshire Council’s wide range of services are delivered by 5,455 employees.
One of the key priorities approved for spending in 2010/11 was an extra £1.5 million to provide care and support for older, younger and vulnerable people across South Ayrshire. This includes additional monies for care packages for older people/in-house homecare service/equipment for physically disabled and older people (£350,000), care packages for children with additional support needs (£226,038), learning disabled adults with older carers/ families in crisis (£528,623) and increasing the number of regular foster carers and child care officers (£244,047).
The Council also agreed to extend nursery provision for under fives with a further £340,000 for additional nursery hours and an extra £284,218 to extend free school meals to pupils in primaries one to three.
Residents who enjoy the outdoors will benefit with improvements to Dam Park Stadium (£80,000), while the reopening of the Girvan Boating Lake on a seasonal basis (£10,000) will be a welcome boost for residents and visitors alike. £20,000 will also be spent to improve facilities at the Citadel.
As part of the 2010/11 budget, Councillors agreed that – for the first time – South Ayrshire Council will take over responsibility for parking enforcement. From 1 April 2010, this will be managed by a team of council wardens rather than the police – a total of £100,000 has been allocated to this project.
In addition, work to improve road safety across South Ayrshire will progress with £50,000 to carry out a review of speed limits on all rural roads in line with both the Council’s own Transportation Strategy and the Scottish Road Safety framework.
Additional monies will also be allocated to help regenerate South Ayrshire communities living with poverty and unemployment through the Fairer Scotland Fund, which will be boosted by £218,000 to £1.67 million.
In addition, current projections show a surplus of more than £6 million.
Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council, said: “Thanks to the prudent financial management and the strategic and proactive planning that now underpins all that we do, we are continuing to invest in priority services and make a difference for the people and communities of South Ayrshire.
“In real terms, there is a reduction in our capital budget and we have less funding than originally anticipated in our revenue budget but we are managing this effectively to ensure there is a minimal impact on frontline services and our customers.
“Four months ago, we agreed that, through a package of measures including service reviews and property rationalisation, we will save around £4.25 million in the next financial year.
“Undoubtedly that will have an impact on what we do and how we do it but we can all now be confident this will be managed in the best possible way for everyone involved. It’s about doing things better – more efficiently, more effectively, more productively.
“Our agreed approach in our financial strategy is very much about looking at how we change the ‘back office’ systems, processes and the way we work to ensure we continue to deliver the high-quality services our communities deserve. This budget confirms we are doing just that.”
Councillor Nan McFarlane, Leader of the SNP Group and Portfolio Holder for Social Services, said: “It’s our role to raise the standards of this Council to provide the efficient services the people of South Ayrshire want and deserve and the budget will deliver this even though demands will always outweigh resource.
“The 2010-11 budget provides additional investment for older people, in-house homecare services, equipment for physically disabled and older people, and additional support for adoption services – all of which I am especially pleased to see as Portfolio Holder for Social Services. We’re also investing in the running track and ground at Dam Park, which will increase usage and help improve the health of our young people and adults. This really is a good news budget.”
Speaking on behalf of the Independent elected members, Councillor Douglas Campbell added: “We very much welcome this budget, which will make a huge difference to communities across South Ayrshire. I am particularly pleased it includes provision to increase the Fairer Scotland Fund budget to more than £1.6 million, which will have a significant and positive impact on vulnerable communities across South Ayrshire.
“We also very welcome the opportunities this budget provides for better working with NHS Ayrshire & Arran and Strathclyde Police – all of which will benefit the health and wellbeing of our residents. This is a confident budget that really delivers for the future – we only have to look at the investment in schools and education to see that and I look forward to seeing the projects outlined today come to fruition.”
The capital programme for 2010/11 was also approved at the special Council meeting. Totalling £15.349 million, the programme will see more than £7 million invested in schools and education, including:
* £2.1 million to renew the dining hall and construct a school extension at Heathfield Primary;
* £1.8 million to refurbish Forehill Primary;
* £1.3 million for a new-build Colmonell Primary;
* £1 million to refurbish Braehead Primary;
* £600,000 on improvement works at Symington Primary and Maidens Primary; and
* £310,000 for curricular upgrades within schools.
In addition, the capital programme includes:
* £1.35 million will be invested in bridges, roads and lighting including £380,000 to reconstruct carriageways and footpaths on Whitletts Road and £696,000 to replace and improve lighting in Ayr (Fort area), Troon (Muirhead area), Prestwick (East Road), and Maybole (Kildoon Drive, Kincraig Avenue, Queen’s Terrace).
* £1.3 million will be invested in the McCalls Avenue depot site to establish a permanent base and workshop for the Council’s tradespeople – electricians, plumbers and joiners – and also facilitate the relocation of an ICT server room and staff from County Buildings. This will assist in the Council’s property rationalisation programme and improve resilience for the Council’s computer network.
* £600,000 will be invested in Masonhill Crematorium.
* £300,000 to establish the customer contact centre and network of one stop shops, improving customer service and the customer experience across South Ayrshire.
* £250,000 to improve parks and play area at Girvan Seafront (£150,000), Ardfin Road in Prestwick (£50,000) and Murray Street in North Ayr (£50,000).
* £200,000 to improve Carnegie Library.
Councillor Robin Reid, Portfolio Holder for Resource and Performance, said: “While we did not expect a reduction of almost £1 million (£920,000) in our capital funding for 2010/11, we are maximising how the funds we have are used to deliver the best possible improvements for our communities.
“Young people, education, customer service and improved facilities are all key elements of our spending plans in this next year and the improvements agreed today will have a very real and positive impact on our residents, visitors and businesses.
“We want to provide our communities with the best services and facilities we possibly can and these will take us one step closer. There is no doubt we face a challenging agenda with limited resources, but we are making the most of what we have to make a difference.
“We are continuing to think big and deliver ambitious plans for our communities and the spending plans agreed for 2010/11 will ensure South Ayrshire continues to grow from strength to strength.”