South Ayrshire communities are set to benefit from the biggest investment in roads in more than a decade, new and improved schools for children and young people, more monies to support older people, and funding to drive the modernisation of how South Ayrshire Council works.
Increased funding for all of these areas was agreed as part of a raft of measures approved by Councillors today (18 December).
These include updated budget proposals that take account of any changes required since the three-year budget for 2014-17 was agreed in December 2013 and March 2014.
More than £252 million of revenue funding will be spent in 2015/16 as well as an unprecedented £145 million capital investment over the next five years to support the Council's priorities of maximising the local economy, supporting children and families, adults and older people, and communities, and improving the environment.
Around £67 million of the Council's capital plan will be invested in schools and education to give children and young people the best possible start in life, with a number of brand new as well as significantly upgraded schools. This will be supplemented by Scottish Government match-funding of approximately £38 million.
Projects to benefit from these monies include the £23 million new-build Queen Margaret Academy in Ayr, a brand-new Invergarven School, a new link building at Southcraig Campus, increased funding for the new dining hall at Troon primary as well as the new Ayr Academy, refurbished Marr College, and new Dailly and Tarbolton primaries. Confirmation from the Scottish Government of additional match-funding for the Queen Margaret Academy project is expected soon.
Complementing this, more than £10 million has been allocated to a dedicated school refurbishment programme to ensure the school estate can be upgraded and improved as needed.
The programme of works also includes substantial investment – £10 million – to improve the condition of South Ayrshire's roads. This average investment of around £2 million per year marks the biggest financial commitment to roads improvement for more than a decade.
Sport and leisure also benefits, with more than £1.5 million confirmed for the refurbishment of existing facilities in Troon.
A further £4.8 million will be invested to modernise and improve IT systems, enabling the Council to continue on its path to becoming an efficient, modern organisation.
"This is a bold and balanced capital programme", said Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council, "that can only be delivered thanks to our robust and prudent financial management.
"By taking a planned and managed approach to our spending and putting the frameworks in place to ensure we deliver against the capital programme, we're able to invest in a way that will make a real and meaningful difference for every single person in South Ayrshire.
"We know roads are a big issue for our communities and we're putting a huge amount into the pot – in fact, the largest investment for more than ten years. Whether you're a resident, visitor, driver or pedestrian, we know what this will mean to our communities.
"We're also focusing on children and families with nearly half our entire capital programme earmarked for schools and educational improvements. That will deliver a legacy for years to come and it's something we can all be proud of. And we're making sure we will be a fit for purpose organisation that operates efficiently and effectively, delivering best value.
"These are still very austere times for Councils and this budget will make sure every penny counts and does exactly what we need it to."
An additional £1 million will be invested in the revenue budget for adults and older people to ensure the services they require are available to them. This will be funded from available reserves, which are now expected to be around £8.7 million by the end of the financial year.
This is in line with the Council's new five-year financial strategy – also approved today – which sets out a planned and prudent approach to managing the Council's finances.
Councillor Robin Reid, Portfolio Holder for Resources and Performance, said: "In these challenging financial times, it's encouraging that we can still deliver increased funding where it's needed most. This budget focuses on our key priorities and ensures we're putting our money where it can make the biggest difference.
"It's not been easy to do this and we've had to make some difficult decisions in setting our revenue budget and buildings investment programme.
"Our focus is on ensuring we make the best use of our resources so they can have the maximum impact on our communities and allow us to develop and improve what we do and how we do it."
Councillor John McDowall, Depute Leader of the Council, added: "This budget has something for everyone and shows just what we can do through sound financial management and a focus on priorities. It also shows the importance of flexibility to meet the needs of our communities, with additional monies agreed today that will make a real difference and support some of our most vulnerable people.
"We're investing massively in our children and families and in our environment. I've no doubt the millions we're putting into our roads in particular will be welcomed everywhere – from Barassie to Ballantrae. We can all be very proud of this budget and I look forward to seeing the difference this will make in practice."
Councillor McIntosh concluded: "This budget is a terrific example of how far we've come in the last few years. It's complemented by confirmation from our external auditors that the Council is in a strong position to meet future financial challenges and the approval of our first-ever five year Financial Strategy that sets out how we will set a prudent and sustainable budget and deliver best value.
"That's exactly what our communities deserve and that's exactly what we've achieved today."
Full details of the budget proposals approved today can be found here, where information on previous decisions relating to the 2015/16 budget can also be found.