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Weekly round-up from Council Leader

Posted on 19 Feb 2021

It’s been a cold week but as so often seems to happen, the snow didn’t really fall on Ayrshire. The satellite shots of Scotland were incredible to view with our small part of the coast the only part of the country not under a sheet of the white stuff. It does really feel like we have our own microclimate in these parts – much to the annoyance of my five-year-old Rosie who was desperate for enough snow to build her own Olaf.

A cold winter presents real challenges for roads departments across the country. The constant cycle of freeze then thaw is what causes cracks in the roads. It’s an enormous challenge for the roads team, as during cold weather conditions when they carry out emergency repairs to one pothole another appears.

North Ayrshire Council is not alone in facing this annual problem. Every council experiences a spike in pothole complaints around this time of year. Whilst our roads team will be involved in this winter response phase for several more weeks they will soon, as temperatures begin to rise, be back to full pace on the strategic road’s investment programme. It’s an investment programme that my administration has more than doubled in recent years, to over £33million, and we continuously review it in every budget cycle to explore opportunities to accelerate the investment. The 2021/22 programme will be coming to my Cabinet for sign off in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, please do keep reporting potholes, including through your local councillors. The roads team can only action repairs on potholes that have been identified but also be assured that we have an investment programme with the 2021/22 plan starting soon.

Things are progressing on the setting of the Council’s budget next month. Since the draft budget was published in the Scottish Parliament almost three weeks ago, we have been working to understand its full impact on North Ayrshire Council’s budget.

It’s now clear that the settlement represents a slight increase of 0.84% in the Council’s core revenue account. In addition, the Council’s capital grant has been cut by £140,000 which, if replicated across the 10-year capital programme, would amount to a reduction of £1.4million.

0.84% will not cover the cost of inflation nor the pay settlement for council workers which is about to be negotiated nationally via COSLA. With the announcement at the start of the week that a further £1.1billion of Barnett consequentials has been received by the Scottish Government, I remain hopeful that through the Parliamentary process a better settlement for Local Government can be secured in these most challenging of times. Thankfully, that is what COSLA is mandated to lobby for after the vote at the Leaders meeting at the end of January.

The Council has been working to ensure that the budget being proposed at the start of next month does not include cuts to council jobs. It would not be ideal to see reductions in public sector jobs at a time when we are in a recession and the private sector is under massive strain as a result of the pandemic. It will also be proposed to Elected Members that  we accept the offer to freeze Council Tax this year, although we will continue to make the case to Government that the money provided to do so needs to be included in future budgets otherwise we will face greater budget gaps which could force higher Council Tax rises further down the line.

As always, we will be looking to deliver a budget that focuses on our priorities for North Ayrshire. Only this time we will be doing so in the middle of a fight against a global pandemic.