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Councli Leader provides update in latest column

Posted on 11 Feb 2021

The last week has seen a real ramping up of the Covid vaccination programme in Ayrshire, much to the credit of NHS Ayrshire and Arran, the Health and Social Care Partnership and the other public bodies in our region that are actively supporting what is the biggest public health operation of our lifetimes.

The mass vaccination stage started last week and at the end of last week I was advised that the number of people receiving their first vaccination dose in Ayrshire was above the Scottish average. I reckon most of us, by now, will know at least one person who has received their first dose and that should provide some form of hope that there is light at the end of this very dark tunnel.

Currently, lockdown continues but we can see that the trend in positive cases and test positivity are both going in the right direction. Whilst I do not expect restrictions to be lifted quickly, we do know that a phased reopening of schools is now planned to start from 22nd February. The extended period of home learning has no doubt proven difficult for many families. I have seen the challenges of juggling schooling with other responsibilities everyday with my own daughter Rosie. But I am heartened by the feedback from parents on the efforts of our schools, including from a meeting of Parent Council chairs held last week. Schools have sought to learn a lot from the first lockdown and alongside the Council’s investment in digital devices to provide internet connectivity for families, it is a credit to the efforts of all school staff that this challenging period has been handled so well.

In the last week or so we had some exciting news in North Ayrshire with the approval of not one but two applications for funding from the Scottish Regeneration and Capital Grant fund.

Both projects are community-led initiatives which have already received funding support from the Council’s innovative Community Investment Fund (CIF). When we created the CIF, our aspirations were that the Council funding that it would provide community projects would enable those projects to leverage in additional external funding and it is fantastic to see that is happening.

The first successful project was on the Isle of Cumbrae where the community have held aspirations to take ownership of Millport Town Hall and restore it back into productive use. This multi-million pound project was always ambitious but with £200,000 from the CIF, and substantial support for the group from Council officers, I am delighted that the project is now fully funded after receiving £1.5million from Regeneration and Capital Grant fund. The next step for the group will be formally completing the asset transfer process that will enable them to take ownership of the Town Hall.

The second project is at Stevenston beach. I am a Kilwinning boy born and bred but my gran, and other relatives, stayed in Stevenston all my life and I spent many school holidays where most of my time was spent in Stevenston. The towns beach has always been a beautiful asset but one underutilised. Now, thanks to £100,000 from our CIF, and £130,000 from Regeneration and Capital Grant fund, the Raise your Voice Ardeer group are set to create a new community hub at the beach. This will be a tremendous community-led project that will hopefully drive more people to Stevenston beach to enjoy this fabulous part of our coast.

These two projects are examples of how our Community Wealth Building approach is leading to positive change in our communities. The emphasis that Community Wealth Building places on community-led initiatives, and indeed community ownership of land and assets, is going to be so important to changing the social and economic fortunes of our area going forward. Let the message go out to community groups that North Ayrshire Council’s door is open to discuss your own aspirations to grow your group and make a difference to your local area. In the Council you will find a willing partner who will support the development of sustainable projects, will assist you in finding funding and provide a helping hand throughout the process. We want to work together with our community groups to make North Ayrshire and our communities within even better.