Perth & Kinross Council have agreed a final budget for 2015/16, which will see almost £10 million invested in front line services and includes a freeze on Council Tax for the ninth consecutive year.
The budget sets the Council’s priorities for investment in the coming year with a focus on reducing inequality, raising pupil attainment and enhancing community empowerment. Key front line services are protected while investment is made in increasing job and work placement opportunities for young people, attracting tourism and business to Perth and Kinross and protecting the infrastructure needed to keep the area moving.
The 2015/16 final budget reinstates £4 million to protect key services for communities and invests almost £6 million to make improvements in roads, structures, greenspaces and services to support some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. Today’s budget confirmed the provisional budget for 2015/16 first agreed last February, which included:
- £200,000 to provide match funding to assist rural communities to improve broadband access;
- £1 million for local road repairs;
- £165,000 to modernise and enhance the Council’s gully cleaning programme;
- £123,000 to bring more empty properties into use for rent and to further expand the flat sharing scheme
February’s discussions added another £1.8 million to that investment total for the coming financial year. School pupils will be amongst the beneficiaries with an extra £150,000 for specific programmes to further raise attainment with a particular focus on young people from deprived areas. This will build upon the previously agreed funding for work experience programmes for young people including £131,000 for the second year of a graduate work experience programme and £158,000 to provide grants to small and medium enterprises to allow them to employ 16-19 year olds through the Modern Apprentice programme.
Families will also benefit as an additional £35,000 of recurring funding has been awarded to Woodlea Cottage to enhance the outreach support service provided to assist children with complex needs and their families in their own homes.
Over the last few years the Council worked closely with Perth & Kinross Association of Voluntary Services (PKAVS) as a way of engaging with community organisations and groups in determining their health and social care needs. With the introduction of the Community Empowerment Bill and the advent of Health and Social Care Integration this way of working is increasingly important. A further £150,000 is being invested in PKAVS to help expand its support for community groups. In addition PKAVS will receive an extra £19,000 in recurring core funding in recognition of the work they undertake on behalf of people across Perth and Kinross.
This community engagement work will work alongside the previously agreed investments of an additional £100,000 to support economic and social development projects in communities, and £15,000 to expand the befriending scheme which provides social contact for older people.
The Council has also agreed to increase the funding for the Welfare Rights Team by £100,000 to increase capacity. The team provides advice and assistance to local residents who need help to navigate the welfare benefits system and is in such demand that the caseload for team members has risen by 112% since 2013. This is in addition to £100,000 of previously agreed funding for the Citizens’ Advice Bureau’s Money Advice Service.
Residents in Highland Perthshire will benefit from the latest extension to the successful Community Wardens scheme. Funding of £20,000 in each of the next two years will be used to pilot a rural Community Warden service in Highland Perthshire which will work with, and be part funded by, community planning partners across this area.
Following on from the successes of 2014 when Perth and Kinross was placed in the international spotlight as the venue for a number of high profile events the Council has approved an additional £73,000 of funding towards confirming the area as an events destination. A £200,000 investment will also enhance tourism and attract economic investment in the area.
One of the key attractions for investment in the area is Perth and Kinross’s location at the centre of Scotland’s roads network making it an ideal base for any business looking for good distribution links. The local topography means that much of this network relies on bridges and other structures to help cross the many rivers and watercourses. With investment in recent years in improving roads, footways and gully cleaning attention is now moving to the condition of local bridge stock and a £1 million investment has been agreed to start addressing work needed to reduce the risk of a problem on bridges affecting local roads.
Council Leader Councillor Ian Miller said: “We are in a fortunate position in Perth and Kinross that this Council’s commitment to making tough decisions and transforming services over a number of years means that we are not facing some of the major service reductions or sudden changes that other local authorities are now having to consider. Over the past few years the Council has consistently improved its performance while reducing costs and making substantial savings.
“The benefits of this approach are clear for local residents as young people, communities and the local economy are all set to benefit from the investments agreed as part of the 2015/16 budget. I particularly welcome the additional investment to raise pupil attainment which will help build on the very good progress which has been made in recent years. The relationship between levels of attainment and socio economic background are well known. These differences start from an early age and we know that unchecked the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged can increase. Investing in this particular area will ensure that we stay focused on closing that gap and can continue to raise attainment.
“Overall the budget agreed today shows that the Council is in a healthy financial position to meet the anticipated significant challenges facing us in the future. The agreed investments will continue to support improvement and transform services while providing stability, maintaining essential services for vulnerable parts of our community and promoting growth for the future.
“In recent years there has been a particular emphasis on creating the conditions for staff to perform at their best for the benefit of all of our communities. I would like to thank all of the staff in Perth & Kinross Council for the vital contribution they make and I will ensure that staff continue to be involved, supported and encouraged to do their very best for the people of Perth and Kinross.”