Adam Ingram MSP
Most of you will be gearing up for the festive period - a time for coming together to celebrate with family and friends.
Over the past few years the recession has been looming large and we’ve all had to take on board the mantra – don’t over indulge, resist the temptation to overspend and try to steer clear of the burden of debt.
Although the Scottish economy is in recovery we are now facing the fallout from the UK Governments Welfare Reforms - the impact those reforms are having on people’s lives is devastating.
One of the more controversial policies from the Westminster Government is the punitive Bedroom Tax - an ill thought out tax on the most vulnerable in our society which could see tenants driven into debt due to the shortfall in their housing benefit.
I also find the sharp rise in the number of people seeking help from foodbanks across the country abhorrent in the 21st century. Luckily through the kindness and generosity of local people donating food and other essentials local volunteers can operate foodbanks which are literally lifeline’s to those who are most in need.
However, with the New Year comes renewed hope that we can make our own lives and the lives of others better.
My own hope is that we can all grow in confidence, and fulfil aspirations for ourselves, our families and our country. We are ever closer to realising our full potential with the Referendum set for next September. This will be your opportunity to create and shape a new Scotland.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all your readers a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
Sandra Osborne MP
Looking back over 2013 and what it has meant to me, I have a few awards to make.
Even last January I was writing about energy prices and that’s still a big issue at the end of the year, so my Best idea of the Year award goes to a Freeze on Energy Prices and a shake up of the energy market to stop the big six companies ripping us off.
Worst Idea of the Year goes to the Bedroom Tax. It is designed to punish those who dare to be poor - the sooner it’s scrapped the better.
My award for Compassion goes to all involved in the local Foodbanks. Thanks to the generosity of local people, the Foodbank staff and volunteers have been able to help those in greatest need struggling to cope with the cost of living. We shouldn’t need Foodbanks, but thank God we have them to help people in time of crisis.
Young Person of the Year
In my work I have the privilege of meeting lots of brilliant young people in our schools, churches and community groups. However, my Young Person of the Year is not local. She is Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai. Shot by the Taliban in her native Pakistan for daring to attend school, Malala’s life story stands out as a symbol of bravery and conviction. Her fight for education has come to represent the struggle for universal education for girls in the developing world.
Those we have lost
Sadly, we will have lost many dear friends and loved ones over the year and my heart goes out to all who will feel that pain most acutely at this time of year. The world is still coming to terms with the loss of a truly good and great man, Nelson Mandela. When we reflect on his legacy, we reflect on the best of values - justice, struggle, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Whatever the year has meant to you, I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Councillor Alec Clark
They say that the older you get the faster time goes by. I can only say that I must be getting old. 2013 has certainly flown in and Christmas is now upon us.
It has not been an easy year for many families and individuals as they have struggled with the tight financial climate of rising prices, a wage freeze, and in some cases benefit cuts because of the ridiculous under occupancy charge which is of course better known as the bedroom tax. Hopefully the economy will improve in the coming year and common sense prevails within government to help alleviate the burden on families. It has also been my privilege this last year to work closely with communities in South Carrick and the groups within those communities who work hard to provide services and amenities that would otherwise be unavailable.
The new Community Empowerment Bill that has gone through the Scottish Parliament will make it incumbent upon Councils to work closer with communities and I believe that to be a good way forward.
It has been one and a half years since I was elected as a South Ayrshire Councillor and one of the most important aspects for me has been the ability to speak up for Girvan and the villages of South Carrick in County Buildings, highlighting the issues that need to be dealt with and promoting all that is good about the places that we call home.
I believe that it is the positive drive that comes out of our communities that will push forward with groups such as South Carrick Community Leisure in partnership with South Ayrshire Council ultimately producing the Phoenix that will rise from the ashes of the Girvan swimming pool with a new Girvan and South Carrick Leisure Centre and that same community spirit will help advance the proposed new 2 Pins Centre being taken forward by Pinwherry and Pinmore Community Association. 2014 promises to be an exciting year in Scotland with the Commonwealth games in Glasgow, the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles and the Referendum on Independence. It only remains to say that I wish you a very Merry Christmas and may you and yours be blessed with all that is good in the coming year.
Councillor John McDowall, Depute Leader of South Ayrshire Council.
2013 has been another difficult and challenging year for most people in Girvan and South Carrick as we all struggle to cope with austerity measures, increasing costs of living increases and welfare reform.
I am pleased though that South Ayrshire Council has continued to invest heavily this year in the regeneration of Girvan and South Carrick with major refurbishment of the Town House, Girvan Harbour Pontoons and of course our continued commitment of £4m towards the provision of a new swimming pool facility at the harbour side . This is being taken forward in partnership with South Carrick Community Leisure and you will have had the opportunity recently to view the proposed plans at the Townhouse . The Council also approved in December our 2014/15 budget which will exceed £246million and despite £4.6million in efficiency savings we will deliver an extra £1.5million for children and families over the next three years and £1.3million for adults and older people . We also plan a Capital spend of £107million over the next four years.
2014 of course, will see Scotland vote on the Independence referendum and, whether you are in favour of Scotland being independent or staying within the United Kingdom , this is one of the most important decisions you will ever be asked to take and I would urge all of you, whatever your views, to use your vote in the referendum to determine Scotland’s future . Closer to home, Christmas is a time for relaxing with family and friends and as always can be a magical time for children, so take some time out and enjoy the festive season and I take this opportunity to wish all of you a very merry Christmas and all the best for 2014 “ .
Alec Oattes, Girvan and South Carrick Councillor
At this time of year we tend to look back over the past twelve months and also look forward to the next year with hope and anticipation.
Looking back I think of Community events like the Lowland Gathering, the Gig on the Green, Girvan Folk Festival, the Christmas Street Party, the Harbour Gala, the Ballantrae Smugglers Festival also the many Fetes and Galas in the villages around South Carrick, all organised by Volunteers.
I take my hat off and give thanks to all who help out in the Community, especially in these austere times, of the Churches who help with Food banks,the Age Concern Lunch Club I would also like to note my appreciation of the folk who represent their local area, by serving on the various Community Councils in Girvan and South Carrick.
As we look forward to the New Year we have to look forward with hope and optimism for better times. I would like wish everyone a Peaceful and Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year, I would add a special thought for anyone who happens to be on their own at this time and for all workers in the Public and Emergency Services who will be on duty over the Holiday period.”
Provost Helen Moonie
It seems hardly any time at all since we all enjoyed the wonderful warm summer in South Ayrshire.
Now, as the year end approaches and we get ready to celebrate the festive season, I hope we can keep the summer warmth alive by taking a moment to keep an eye out for someone else this winter.
For some, Christmas can be a lonely, sad or difficult time and a cheery word or a knock at the door to see how someone is doing can make a world of difference.
I’m constantly amazed by the many people I meet who are true ‘unsung heroes’ – whether caring for a sick spouse or relative, making outstanding contributions to their community or facing adversity, but remaining determined to succeed.
Their great spirit, resolve, courage and determination is an inspiration which underpins my Christmas message for this year.
So, rather than just waiting for Christmas to come around, I hope we can find a renewed sense of purpose in the year ahead, to commit ourselves to do more for others every day, rather than just once a year.
With this in mind, I was delighted to lead a review earlier this year on how we support local deserving causes. It was an opportunity to find better ways of listening to, and helping others who are themselves committed to helping others.
The result is that South Ayrshire Council now supports eight charities: Ayr Housing Aid, Chernobyl Children’s Link, Gardening Leave, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, Riverside Care & Share Project, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (Girvan and Troon), Seascape and South Ayrshire Women’s Aid.
Their work is as far reaching as it is essential – and our support is a direct reflection on how important their public spiritedness is in making a difference for people from all walks of life.
2013 was also a year of bittersweet memories for me.
It was with sadness that we said goodbye to the service personnel at RAF Prestwick – and it delighted me to see so many people lining up to pay their own respects to the unit as they enjoyed their final parade in town.
More recently, we welcomed The Royal Regiment of Scotland, home from their tour of Afghanistan and it was with a sense of pride we granted them the honorary freedom of South Ayrshire.
I was also privileged throughout the year to share in many celebrations, receptions and community events – as well as attending the inauguration of the National Mining Memorial Centre, which has personal resonance for me.
Looking ahead to 2014, we have the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow firmly on the horizon.
This will bring world nations to Scotland, showcasing their talents, putting themselves and their citizens on the map through teams and individuals who have worked together to be at the pinnacle of their chosen game. It’s a superb model of camaraderie and citizenship in action.
When the Queen’s Baton Relay arrives here on 20 June 2014, we have the opportunity to be at the top of our own game, by giving the baton a warm South Ayrshire welcome and cheering on those local people nominated as batonbearers, carrying the Queen’s message through the heart of our communities.
South Ayrshire is a great place to live, work and play – characterised by the great people who reside here. That’s our ‘common wealth’ and we can build on it in 2014, by making it a year in which we come together, working harder than ever, to put this corner of Scotland on the map as a community where all are equal, valued and welcome.
Have a very merry Christmas and a bright and inspirational New Year.
South Ayrshire Council leader Bill McIntosh
The festive season for me is about people – a time for reflection, considering progress over the year and looking at how we can do even better. This year, we’ve achieved so much.
In September, we launched our AMBITION enterprise and employment programme to support businesses, jobs, social enterprises and our local economy in a lasting way, changing lives and helping secure a great future for South Ayrshire.
More recently, the Scottish Government acquired Prestwick Airport, securing jobs and keeping the gateway to Ayrshire and Scotland well and truly open. I appreciate the hard work by our employees in the lead-up to this milestone, and we’ll continue to be involved as things move forward.
We’ve been continuing to improve the lives of our residents throughout 2013 – regenerating Ayr’s Lochside with a £9 million project; completing the Sailwest Project in Girvan; commissioning a new golf clubhouse at Belleisle; opening our Customer Service Centre in Ayr; completing the modernisation of Forehill and Braehead primaries; starting work on a new Kirkmichael Primary; consulting on a new Ayr Academy; planning major changes to Marr College; and our school pupils achieving outstanding exam results once again.
We also hit two big milestones – getting the planning process for our new leisure facility in Girvan underway, working to make our vision a reality. And, with East Ayrshire Council, we established the Ayrshire Roads Alliance, which will be responsible for our roads service from April. This means a financial saving while maintaining service levels and sharing best practice – a truly innovative approach for local government.
The way all organisations will deliver services is changing. We’ve played our part this year to shape older people’s services of the future, working with a range of organisations to deliver more support to older people where they want it − in their homes, helping them to remain independent longer.
With the Glasgow Commonwealth Games next year, interest in sport has never been higher and we’ve been promoting and supporting inclusive sports activities for all. We hope the Games will leave a lasting legacy with more people participating in, and supporting sports at all levels, leading to better physical and mental health.
Our commitment to arts and culture within our schools and communities has stayed strong and we’ve been working closely with South Ayrshire Arts Partnership to ensure we deliver a vibrant arts and culture programme for residents and visitors alike.
Welfare reform has been a big news story this year and it’s a major challenge for Councils. We’re doing all we can to provide co-ordinated and comprehensive support where it’s needed most, whether through advice or financial support and we’ll continue this in 2014.
I’ve spent time recently visiting businesses across South Ayrshire and am encouraged at the success stories and upbeat attitudes despite the difficult economic climate. Breathing new life into our towns is important and we’re making significant headway with the appointment of new town centre officers and a huge amount of positive partnership working.
A priority at the moment is our budget – we estimate we will need to save £22 million over the next three years, while maintaining the services our communities need. This is no mean feat, but our record of sound financial management stands us in good stead as we move forward.
However, for now, let’s concentrate on the festive season − a time for celebration, spending time with family, friends and neighbours. Although for many, it’s business as usual. So, please spare a thought for everyone who will be working to deliver vital services while most of us are taking time off and relaxing.
Please also remember the vulnerable, frail or elderly in our communities who may need a bit more support at this time of year. Think about how you can help and make a real difference to them.
Most of all, have a peaceful Christmas and a healthy and contented New Year.