South Ayrshire Councillors have today (5 March) agreed a landmark budget which not only balances the books, but sets out ambitious plans for the future. This budget protects and invests in vital services which make a difference to the people of South Ayrshire every day.
Councillors agreed a General Services Revenue Budget (or day-to day budget) of £279.6 million for 2020/21. This includes a record-breaking £76.6 million for the South Ayrshire Health and Social Care Partnership, an increase of £2.4 million on last year's commitment.
At the core of the Council's plans is a Capital Investment Programme worth £362.8 million to be spent over the next 10 years. This will include significant investment in the school estate including investing £148 million in:
a new Maybole Community Campus;
a new St John's Primary school;
Wallacetown Early Years Centre in Ayr;
a new Sacred Heart Primary School;
a new Girvan Primary School;
a shared campus for Glenburn and St Ninian's Primaries in Prestwick;
improvement works to other schools, including Kyle Academy and Girvan Academy.
The budget also makes significant investment in leisure facilities, helping residents to care for their health and wellbeing. This investment includes £36.5 million to be spent over the next three years on a new leisure facility in Ayr Town Centre. £400,000 has been allocated for sporting improvements in Whitletts, and £6.7 million for new sports facilities at Craigie. £825,000 has also been allocated for an all-weather pitch in Girvan.
The Council's ambition to make South Ayrshire a better place to live includes the regeneration of town centres. This ambition is boosted by an investment of £825,000 to regenerate Maybole Town Centre over the next two years. In Ayr, the transformation of the riverside site is set to continue, with £5 million allocated to turn the bottom of the High Street into an events hub. A further £825,000 has been allocated to bring the Ayrshire Archives Centre into the heart of the Ayr.
The importance of the roads network is also recognised, with an additional investment of £2.5 million, which now takes the 10 year commitment to £17 million. £191,350 will also be spent on improvements to The Flushes car park in Girvan.
This budget also reflects the Council's commitment to expand early learning and childcare in line with Scottish Government targets. By investing £8.3 million, early learning and childcare provision will almost double to 1,140 hours for all three and four year olds, and eligible two year olds.
We are investing a further £2.3 million, to help close the poverty related attainment gap in our schools, giving our young people the best start in life.
To help fund these ambitious plans, Councillors took the tough decision to increase Council Tax by 4.84%. This means an increase per household of between 11p and 42p per day, depending on the Council Tax band of the property. An average Council Tax Band D property will see a rise of 17p per day.
The new Council Tax rate will generate £60.8 million, an increase of £3.8 million on last year. This, combined with the use of £1 million from uncommitted reserves and savings of £4.8 million, has protected and invested in vital services and avoided the closure of any facilities.
Councillor Douglas Campbell, Leader of South Ayrshire Council said: "Setting this budget has been a real challenge but, for the third time, this Administration has delivered a balanced budget which ensures South Ayrshire is one of the best places to live, work or visit.
"I would like to thank residents who participated in the 'Our Future – Let's Talk' consultation, giving us their views on our future spending. Their feedback has been invaluable in determining the direction of this budget.
"Raising Council Tax was not an easy decision, but is necessary to avoid making cuts which could devastate our communities. We intend to use 1.84% of this increase to support schools and to avoid closing any facilities.
"We continue to focus resources on the things which make a tangible difference in our communities such as tackling inequality, boosting education, improving health and wellbeing and making the most of the local economy."
Councillor Brian McGinley, Depute Leader of South Ayrshire Council said: "Despite the financial hardships, we have delivered a budget which puts people at the heart of the decision making process.
"Once again, we have not only bridged a very challenging funding gap but delivered an ambitious budget which continues to invest in our communities.
"We need to account for every pound - the days of being able to spend on the things we would like, as well as the things we actually need, are long since gone.
"Even just focussing on our key services is not easy given the breadth and depth of what we do as a Council, however through the use of uncommitted reserves and prudent savings we have balanced the budget without the need for closures which is commendable."
Independent Councillors Alec Clark and Brian Connolly said: "This budget gives the public a very clear indication of our direction of travel as we increase the profile and reputation of South Ayrshire.
"We continue to buck the trend when it comes to transforming our schools estate and we are regenerating our towns to reflect the changing nature of high street shopping.
"Public engagement will continue and we would encourage people to have their say and help us to make a lasting difference in South Ayrshire."
You can see the budget at www.south-ayrshire.gov.uk/budget