Council swings axe to more public services in budget

Vital services in South Ayrshire are set to be axed after the council’s budget outlined almost £4.6m of cuts over the next year.

And over the next three years the council admit they will need to find £18m of efficiency savings as the economic climate continues to bite.

Public service workers will also be hard hit with the efficiency measures set to affect the number of staff in local schools including janitorial staff, kitchen staff and school patrol cross workers.

The budget which was passed by 20 votes to 9 at a full meeting of the council on Thursday 19 December saw the Conservative and Labour proposals backed for the next financial year by the three indpendent councillors, with only the SNP group opposing the plans.

The SNP slammed the proposals with Troon councillor Nan McFarlane saying at one point that scrooge is alive and well in South Ayrshire Council.

They also proposed a rent increase of a more modest 3.7% on council properties to help ease the effect of welfare reform but were told that their sums didn’t add up.

One of their main proposals was also to install a Multi Users Game Area in primary schools across the area.

SNP group leader Douglas Campbell said: “OK the Council Leader can call me populist if he wants. But there are ways and means of protecting the services for the most vulnerable in our society and provide new things like a MUGA in every primary school. He calls it fanciful. I call it common sense.”

Further cuts will see an increase in funeral costs, a review of free fruit offered to school children and a review of activity centre opening times.

In a sometimes stormy meeting, things got personal towards the end with Council leader Bill McIntosh accusing the SNP group leader Douglas Campbell of not enjoying having money in the bank before going on to say that the SNP equates to populism.

However, the budget did outline £107m worth of capital funding from 2014-15 until 2016/17, which £55m of will be focused on young people, including £1.4m being allocated for a new primary school in Dailly.

Defending the budget, Councillor McIntosh stressed the levels of investment that the council are planning for South Area despite tough economic times.

He said: “We all know we are operating within a challenging financial climate and this means we must constantly review how we go about our business.

“Our capital programme – and particularly the focus on children and young people through our school and residential estates – will deliver a legacy that we can all be proud of. This will transform our towns, villages and communities for years to come.”

His words were echoed by Girvan and South Carrick councillor John McDowall, who is also the Depute Leader of the Council.

He said: “We are not immune to the harsh economic climate our constituents face on a day-to-day basis and, like them, we have some difficult choices to make as an organisation. Our priority has been to ensure that these hard decisions are reflective of the priorities we agreed with our communities.

Independent councillor for Girvan and South Carrick, Alec Clark backed the budget.

Hes said: “I welcome this budget and in particular welcome the investment in education including the new primary school for Dailly.”