North Ayrshire Council budget to lead recovery from COVID-19
North Ayrshire Council has approved a £365.3 million Revenue Budget for 2021/22 which will include a Council Tax freeze at current levels and no increase in fees and charges for council services.
The newly agreed budget will also see the introduction of an annual £500,000 initiative to help struggling families cope with the cost of the school day, including investment in digital, food and clothing support.
The council also announced a £589,000 revenue contribution to secure an additional capital investment of £7m in core infrastructure including roads, active travel routes, property adaptations and energy efficiency improvements and to help the council transition the council’s vehicle fleet to more sustainable electric/low emission technologies.
A further £1.4m will be contributed to the council’s Investment Fund to support a second council-owned renewable energy project, building on last year’s £8.8million fund which supported projects such as tree planting, Community Wealth Building and the Green Jobs Fund.
The council also announced a further £350,000 investment in a Covid Intervention Fund to support Outdoor and Residential Learning, and £250,000 for a three-year appointment of a Digital Officer to support the council’s digital strategy following the pandemic.
The budget also revealed there will be protection for frontline services despite the continuing challenging economic climate, and new jobs will also be created, including approximately 16 new full-time equivalent roles in the expanding early learning and childcare sector.
Council leader Joe Cullinane said: “The past 12 months haven’t been easy for anyone and that is recognised within this Budget.
“Through the freezing of both the Council Tax and fees for council services, we hope this will minimise the financial impact on our residents while the introduction of a fund to support vulnerable families meet the cost of a school day will help those who need it most.
“Our residents are at the forefront of our minds when setting the Budget, so it’s important that we have also committed to stimulate the local economy to ensure we can build back from the pandemic.
“Clearly, there are still challenges to come but this Budget puts us in a better position to meet those challenges – it protects our residents, protects frontline services and not only protects existing council jobs but will create new jobs too.
“Crucially, it also supports investment in key areas and builds on our commitment to Community Wealth Building and the environment.”
For 2021/22, the council received a £2.492m increase in core grant funding from the Scottish Government, worth about 0.84% of its overall Budget however the increasing demand for services and rising costs, means that cuts still must be found.
Over the last ten years, the council has had to take more than £100m out of its budget but this year has managed to restrict cuts to £490,000, all of which are back office changes such as developing new ways of working through digital technology coming out the pandemic.
Currently, it is anticipated that the council will continue to face financial challenges in the coming years with indicative funding gaps of £4.424m and £8.44m for 2022/23 and 2023/24 respectively.