Cllr Douglas Campbell, Leader South Ayrshire Council
This is my first Christmas message as Leader of South Ayrshire Council and it gives me the opportunity to not only celebrate our achievements but look forward to the New Year as we continue to work to deliver quality services to the residents of South Ayrshire.
There is no doubt that next year is going to bring a number of challenges in continuing to deliver services to a wide range of individuals and communities. We will be working with you to target resources where they're needed most and there will be full consultation on how we shape our services in the New Year, so get involved.
Going forward, we would like to see more projects that are community focused. A good example of this is The Quay Zone in Girvan. The £5.4 million leisure and community centre was completed in March and although the new build was funded by the Council, it's operated by South Carrick Community Leisure.
These innovative ways of working are set to continue as we look to provide a more flexible service to our customers. We have introduced the Transform South Ayrshire initiative to drive this forward and our first major project has been the introduction of an online school payments system.
Continuing to improve our schools is the main feature of our capital programme, which includes £63 million for new and refurbished schools. This year we have opened the new Ayr Academy and primary schools in Dailly, Tarbolton and the new Invergarven School. There were also extensions and refurbishments at Marr College, Annbank and Troon primary schools and Southcraig School. This investment is set to continue in the New Year with the new Queen Margaret Academy.
We want these improved learning environments to help reduce the attainment gap and build on our exam success. Since 2013 the number of young people achieving 5 Highers has increased by 54% which is a fantastic achievement.
We are also looking to build employability skills in our young people as they prepare for life beyond the classroom. All our secondary schools have engaged with the Prince's Trust and Developing Young Workforce to introduce innovative 'business' projects such as nail bars, and bike repair hubs.
As part of the Year of Young People 2018, we will be celebrating even more projects as we highlight the achievements of the younger generation.
It's not only young people who will benefit as we look to secure the UK's first Spaceport at Glasgow Prestwick Airport. With more than 50% of Scotland's aerospace employees based at Prestwick we are in a strong position to secure this significant growth opportunity.
Glasgow Prestwick Airport could be set for even more success if the expansion of Heathrow Airport goes ahead. The airport could be used as a potential site for a logistics hub to support the building of the third runway at Heathrow.
Increasing the number of people attracted to South Ayrshire helps sustain and create new jobs in leisure and tourism. There have been a number of high profile events over the last year including the Scottish International Airshow and we want to bring even more landmark events to South Ayrshire in 2018 as well as growing other favourites such as Tamfest, Alloway 1759 and Burns an' a' that!
Our golf courses attract large numbers of visitors and we have underlined our commitment to golf with the official opening of refurbished clubhouses in Troon and Girvan.
Looking to the future, locals and visitors to South Ayrshire are set to benefit from the final announcement of the contract award for the A77 bypass at Maybole.
2017 has been a busy year and I hope we can all enjoy the festive break. I would like to take this opportunity to wish you a merry Christmas and a happy New Year.