East Ayrshire budget looks to long-term with £40m investment

East Ayrshire budget looks to long-term with £40m investment

East Ayrshire Council’s 2024/25 budget has been approved with cross-party collaboration.

The budget setting process this year was particularly challenging given the issues in the wider economy and grant funding pressures. Officers presented a balanced budget for 2024/25, having identified a range of options to help close the £9.7m budget gap without having to draw on reserves.

However, the council said that savings and reductions required go beyond what has been necessary in previous years and look set to become the norm for councils across the board.

There was general agreement within the chamber that due to financial constraints, it would ‘not be possible to do everything’, but members from all parties expressed a shared commitment to tackle poverty and inequality within this being a central plank of the 2024/25 budget and beyond.

Councillors agreed to accept funding to support a Council Tax freeze, which will see the council receiving funds from the Scottish Government equivalent to a 5% increase.

Council was united in voting through the creation of a £40m fund for the next ten years to support early intervention and prevention, tackle poverty and inequality, support communities and further enhance opportunities for jobs and skills.

Furthermore, the council agreed a £2.062m package of one-off funding to address immediate needs which will include the following:

  • £860k to extend half price school meals for another year from August 2024;
  • An additional £400k for roads and pavements improvements;
  • £254k to extend the work of the civic pride team to all towns and villages for a further year;
  • £191k to extend the work of the financial inclusion teams in schools and early years establishments for a further six months;
  • An additional £180k to support the corporate enforcement team deal with the scourge of litter, dog fouling and gulls
    £40k to extend the clothing grant scheme to eligible families of 3 and 4-year-olds attending early learning establishments – with £50 grants available per child within those
  • families eligible for footwear and clothing grants; and
  • £137k to maintain the garden waste collection fee at £30 per bin, avoiding an increase in the price of the permits.

Leader of East Ayrshire Council, Councillor Douglas Reid, said: “This has been without doubt the hardest budget setting process we’ve ever undertaken however we have not lost sight of the need that exists within our communities and this budget safeguards the council’s finances, supports those most in need and sets an unprecedented £40m fund at our disposal to take a long-term approach to tackling poverty, deprivation and depopulation.

“We know families are still struggling financially and collectively we agreed a range of options worth £2.062m to extend the support available to them over the coming year.

“I’m delighted that we’ve agreed to extend our half price school meals for a further year - this financial support is really valued by families with children and young people at school. I’m pleased too that we’ve all acknowledged that we still need to continue to invest in our roads and pavements for the benefit of commuters and pedestrians alike. And town centres and villages will benefit from the additional investment in civic pride improvements and corporate enforcement initiatives.”

Councillor Barry Douglas, depute group leader, East Ayrshire Labour Group echoed these sentiments. He added: “After careful discussion with colleagues from all parties I’m pleased that we reached a consensus on our shared priorities, which will provide some assurances for our communities.

“In particular, I’m delighted that we’ve agreed to extend half price schools meals for a further year. This was introduced last year as part of the 23/24 budget following a proposal by Councillor Maureen McKay and this has proven to be highly successful.

“I’m also pleased that we can offer a further lifeline to local families by way of extending the clothing grant to our early years’ families, as well as extending the financial inclusion support that is currently available in our secondary campuses. We need to do all that we can to ensure our residents are claiming everything they are entitled to.

“These are difficult times, but collectively we have all played our part to help deliver a budget that we can all be proud of.”

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