As well as a commitment to protect core services and jobs, the budget set by Argyll and Bute Council last week will see several one off investments* to support the Single Outcome Agreement’s overarching vision – to build the economy through a growing population.
With over £60million set to be invested in key infrastructure such as roads, schools and historic buildings over the next two years, as well as an additional £12.5million to support regeneration, business growth and inward investment through the newly created Argyll, Lomond and the Isles Rural Regeneration Initiative, the council is working to create a vibrant economic future for the area.
Leader of the council, Councillor Dick Walsh, said: ‘’Having planned prudently and managed our reserves and capital expenditure with such care over the past few years we are able to make investments which will enable growth and support the ambitions of our communities.
‘’We share with our communities the priority of securing economic growth, attracting new companies, new people and new private investment.
‘’Building on the successes of the past few years – a wide-ranging programme to upgrade over 350miles of our road network, working with our partners to build affordable homes and town centre improvements across the area – we are continuing to use money to make money, identifying projects which will see tangible, sustainable economic returns which will build the prosperous future Argyll and Bute deserves.’’
£3million to regenerate Mid-Argyll
Like the council’s other successful regeneration initiatives in Campbeltown, Rothesay and Helensburgh, as well as the ongoing projects in Oban and Dunoon, this funding will be used to breathe new life into the area.
Vice Chair of the Mid-Argyll, Kintyre and the Islands (MAKI) Area Committee, Lochgilphead-based Councillor Donnie MacMillan, said: “Now this money has been made available we can start developing ideas for projects, likely two or three, which will be able to create jobs and grow the population. Involvement of the community will be key in this. We want projects which are matched to what the community wants.
“Lochgilphead’s front green has been interest for some time. We will certainly be looking into options to redevelop that area.
“This is about regenerating towns from the ground up, having a conversation with the community, taking into account ongoing initiatives such as the Crinan Canal design workshop, with everyone working together towards the same outcome – a sustainable economic, social and environmental future for our area.”
£2million asset management and investment fund
This fund will be used to seek investment opportunities, based on business cases, which will generate income that can be used to support frontline services.
£1million inward investment fund
Councillor Aileen Morton, Policy Lead for Sustainable Economic Growth, welcomed the creation of this fund, saying: “This fund will be used to grow the economy through attracting inward investment.
“It will support initiatives which deliver real, tangible economic benefits. For example, it could be used to support the Machrihanish spaceport bid and the development of Oban as a university town.”
£6million extra, adding to the £11million already committed, to transform Helensburgh waterfront
Chair of the Helensburgh and Lomond Area Committee, Councillor Gary Mulvaney, welcomed the further investment in Helensburgh, saying: “We have identified a £17million scheme which will see Helensburgh Pier transformed, with new flood defences, a new swimming pool and leisure centre and improvements to the car park and public spaces.
“We are already seeing the great economic benefits of the town centre regeneration work, with more people coming to Helensburgh to spend their money and, crucially, private sector investment and new shops opening their doors.
“The waterfront project is the final piece of the jigsaw which will make Helensburgh an even more attractive place for people to live, work, visit and invest.
“We will now be looking at the best way of getting the designs agreed and the project tendered and spades in the ground.”
This funding provision will allow the project to progress but, as ever, the council will be exploring external funding opportunities.
*This package of measures is funded through financial reserves and capital funding, which support one-off spending on infrastructure. This money comes from grants from the Scottish Government, the sale of council properties and borrowing.
More detail on capital investment is available in the capital plan at: http://www.argyll-bute.gov.uk/moderngov/documents/s106782/Capital%20Pack%20-%20FINAL%201.pdf
The additions to the capital plan from financial reserves in the motion agreed as last week’s council meeting:
- Notes the advised opening position of £12.216m as at 31st March 2015;
- Adds to this figure the budgeted surplus of £154,000 for 2015/16;
- Further adds to this figure the sum of £115,000 from the release of earmarked reserves from the Community Resilience Fund (£100,000) and Bute Advice Centre saving (£15,000, representing a 25% reduction in line with savings option PRS04f);
- Further adds to this figure the sum of £8.586m from the release of earmarked reserves previously allocated to the DBFM School Project as a result of ESA10 and the provision being made for Unitary Charge requirements met from within the council’s revenue expenditure;
- Notes and agrees the total available finance of £21.071m for distribution and support of the Single Outcome Agreement objectives and Planning our Future initiatives, making provision for the following from the available reserves:
· Proposals of £0.651m already committed and new proposals of £5.747m as outlined in the report prepared by the Head of Strategic Finance, unless specified otherwise below
· Establish the Argyll, Lomond and Islands Rural Regeneration Initiative, which will encompass all strategies and plans relating to repopulation, including:
o Allocation of £5.579m towards capital provision for the Helensburgh Waterfront development
o Allocation of £3m for regeneration and economic sustainability in Lochgilphead and Tarbert areas
o Creation of a £2m Asset Management Fund to generate additional income
o Creation of a £1m Inward Investment Fund to attract significant inward investment or by investing in facilities and infrastructure to support business development/growth
o Creation of a £500,000 Rural Resettlement Initiative to support population growth with the council’s Strategic Management Team corporately to bring forward plans and proposals for consideration by members
o Provision of £300,000 funding for Christmas lights across the current administrative areas, to be managed by Area Committees, with a report to be brought forward by the Executive Director of Development and Infrastructure outlining allocation arrangements and funding timescales in relation to replacement of current revenue provision
o Provision of £200,000 for flood and coastal protection, both proactive and reactive
o Provision of £170,000 for improvements to Tarbert sports pitch
· Reduce severance provision from £4.5m to £3.5m as a result of rejected and reduced savings options
· Increase the general fund contingency from 1.5% to 2% (£1.192m)
- Notes that as a result of the above changes, the closing position balance is £1.732m in addition to a 2% contingency equivalent to £4.743m;
- Approves the Capital Plan and spending proposals as set out in the report from the Head of Strategic Finance