A Christmas Message from Councillor Martin Dowey, Leader of South Ayrshire Council
As we come to the end of the year and the festive season is in full swing, I'm sure you'll all be looking forward to relaxing and spending some quality time with your family and friends over the holidays.
I hope you're already getting into the spirit of things and enjoyed some of the great local festive activities that have taken place so far, such as the switching on of Christmas lights in our towns and villages. The recent Little Stars Light Up Ayr event saw a fantastic turnout in Ayr town centre. It was great to see visitors and locals enjoying free entertainment and doing some early Christmas shopping.
While Christmas is a very special time of year for many of us, it can also be a lonely one for others. So please take a bit of time to check in on friends and neighbours who may not have family around at this time of year.
2022 saw some normality return in comparison to the last few years, as COVID-19 restrictions were removed. Although the pandemic seems like a distant memory, I'd still encourage you to look after yourselves this winter. Be prepared and make sure you order any prescriptions you need for over the festive period in advance. If you do need urgent care over the holidays, but it's not a critical emergency, you should call NHS 24 first on 111.
The recent cost-of-living crisis is having an impact on everyone, including us as a Council, with high inflation rates, high interest rates and rising energy costs. If you're looking for a warm space to visit this winter, I'm pleased to tell you we've been working in partnership with Voluntary Action South Ayrshire (VASA) and community groups to launch 'Cosy Spaces'. These are places where people of all ages can get together in a warm, friendly environment and enjoy good company, warm drinks, a bite to eat, and even some games and activities. A full list of Cosy Spaces across the area can be found here.
Like many people across the country, I was deeply saddened by the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in September. She was the longest-reigning British monarch in history, the longest-serving female head of state, and was admired by people from all walks of life. It was an honour to pay tribute to her by attending the Service of Reflection at the Auld Kirk and leaving a message in the Book of Condolence at County Buildings in Ayr.
There have been some outstanding performances from Council services this year, including our Property Maintenance and Neighbourhood Services teams who each won prestigious APSE awards. I'd like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to every single member of South Ayrshire Council staff for their continuous hard work. Their dedication means that our services can continue to run without issue.
This year saw the long-awaited return of many in person events, such as the Holy Fair in June and Tamfest in October. I hope you managed to get along to enjoy some of them. It's only set to get better for 2023 as we are now planning for a new air show - The International Ayr Show - Festival of Flight, in September next year. This will form part of an exciting, proposed calendar of events in 2023, and I'm looking forward to sharing more information with you about the event as it becomes available.
We pride ourselves on our fantastic school facilities, as making sure our young people have the best start in life is one of our main priorities. The brand-new Prestwick North Education Campus and Sacred Heart Primary schools both opened their doors to pupils in the autumn. The new £50 million Maybole Community Campus is also progressing well; and ground was broken at the new Struthers Early Years Centre in Troon. Both campuses are set to open next year and will provide first class learning environments for pupils. Ayr Grammar also won 'Project of the Year' at the Learning Places Scotland Awards 2022.
I was delighted when, for the second year in a row, we became one of the top local authorities in Scotland for school leavers. 98.3% of our young people move on to positive destinations, and with the Scottish average at 95.5%, so this is an outstanding achievement.
Supporting local businesses to thrive is vital for the South Ayrshire economy, and we continue our involvement in the Scotland Loves Local South Ayrshire gift card scheme. If you're looking for some last-minute present ideas, the South Ayrshire gift card is the perfect solution. Over 170 local businesses have now signed up, and you can find out more here.
We want to drive inward investment in the area, and earlier this month we confirmed that Mangata Networks, an innovative satellite-enabled cloud services company, has chosen to locate its new centre in Prestwick International Aerospace Park. Over the next few years, up to 575 new jobs will be created as part of their state-of-the-art engineering and operations hub for satellite manufacturing and operations. This investment forms part of the Ayrshire Growth Deal and will see many benefits for our local communities, beginning with hundreds of jobs.
As you may know, South Ayrshire is a popular tourist destination thanks to our stunning beaches and surrounding scenery. Ayr, Maidens, Prestwick, Girvan and Troon South Beach all became winners of the prestigious Scotland's Beach Award earlier in the year - recognised for their fantastic amenities, including being clean, well-managed and sustainable.
Providing quality homes that meet the needs of tenants is another one of our priorities, and work began on the former Mainholm Academy and John Pollock Centre site to build 160 new affordable homes. I'm sure those of you who live close to the site will have seen the great progress that is being made.
We are moving forward as an organisation, and we have many exciting things planned for 2023 and beyond.
2022 has certainly been a busy one, and I'd like to wish you a Merry Christmas, a happy New Year, and all the best for 2023.