North Ayrshire sets £48m housing revenue spend as Dumfries & Galloway also reveals budget
Despite having to find savings of around £9.3 million, North Ayrshire Council agreed a £326m revenue budget which it said gives particular emphasis to some of the council’s highest priorities - North Ayrshire’s young people, the Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) and reducing inequality.
With housing continuing to play a key role in supporting the delivery of those priorities, a housing revenue budget of £48m and a total capital investment programme of £53m was approved by elected members.
This will result in £33m invested in council house building as well as more than £11m to deliver 750 new kitchens, 700 new bathrooms, re-roofing and re-rendering of 800 houses, new central heating in 350 houses and rewiring of 200 houses.
Council house rent levels in North Ayrshire are expected to remain below the Scottish average and this will continue following the introduction of a 2.79 per cent increase to rent levels from 1 April.
The budget will provide £5.5m extra funding to Health and Social Care. A motion proposed at the meeting by council leader Joe Cullinane means an extra £4m to support change in the HSCP, alongside £3m for core services - achieved through removing the requirement to deliver £1.5m of new savings.
A number of other budget amendments will see £3.6m investment in local communities and £1.7m to help the fight against poverty in North Ayrshire. These include establishment of a £3.2m community investment fund, £230,000 for a Community Empowerment Unit; £122,000 for a Community Food Plan; almost £850,000 for a Poverty Challenge Fund; £200,000 for a Universal Basic Income Pledge; £150,000 to develop North Ayrshire’s “Fair for All” strategy. In addition, £200,000 was set aside to create additional Modern Apprenticeships.
Councillor Cullinane said: “Delivering better outcomes in partnership with our communities, reducing poverty and building a better future for our young people is at the very heart of what we are trying to do here in North Ayrshire.
“We have managed to deliver a budget which not only achieves that balance but also helps those most in need while protecting both frontline services and jobs, by taking some of the proposed savings off the table. Indeed, there will be additional jobs as a result of our Budget.”
A budget consultation late last year saw 70% of local residents say that they agreed that Council Tax should be increased with the stipulation that the extra income will be ring-fenced for education.
Council leader Ronnie Nicholson said that the budget clearly set out how the Administration will close the £16m funding gap to deliver a balanced budget as well as continuing to invest in the region’s priorities.
The approved budget sees over £2.5m of new anti-poverty initiatives including breakfast clubs and a ‘Links to Work’ programme will help support more people back into work in some of our most deprived areas and a £1m Town Centre Living Fund to bring derelict and empty properties into use for housing - getting more people back into our town centres.
Speaking during the budget debate, the council leader said: “From driving down youth unemployment, taking the impact of flooding seriously, rebuilding our schools and becoming the first council in Scotland to achieve Living Wage accreditation, the budget decisions of this Administration are delivering across Dumfries and Galloway.
“We have done this in the face of unprecedented cuts in funding from the government-with over £50m of savings made in the past four years alone and a further £16m to achieve this year.
“By reviewing every aspect of the way our council works and implementing the radical re-shaping of our council’s structures to reduce the number of departments, we have been able to make those tough savings in a way that not only protects our frontline services but refocuses funding towards our council’s priorities.”
A total of 31 councils have set their rates to date:
Only South Ayrshire Council has yet to announce its spending plans.