Argyll and Bute Council has set a budget that freezes council tax in 2021/22 and invests millions in helping local people, businesses and the area as a whole to move on from the impact of covid-19.
Council Leader, Councillor Robin Currie said:
“We are investing nearly £6.8 million to help Argyll and Bute keep going and keep growing. This budget takes on the unprecedented day-to-day and longer term challenges of living through a worldwide pandemic.
We are investing in help for young people struggling to cope with life under covid restrictions. We are increasing support for families and others struggling financially. Investment in our road network, and digital connectivity, will help keep people and businesses connected.
We will grab every opportunity for Argyll and Bute’s economic recovery, so are investing in action to bring the benefits of staycation tourism to the area. And longer term, we are investing in creating a sustainable future through climate-friendly initiatives, and progressing the area’s rural growth deal to action.
This budget is about taking Argyll and Bute through challenge to a successful, sustainable future.”
The Council’s £6.8 million investment will be split across five themes:
Investing in Argyll and Bute’s opportunities - £830,000 to deliver benefits from staycation, camping and campervan tourism. This will include for example waste disposal facilities and wardens to promote responsible camping.
Keeping Argyll and Bute connected - £3,113,000 to improve the area’s network of roads, footpaths and pavements. This brings the overall Roads Reconstruction Budget to £10 million for 2021/22, and investment in green transport and travel to £900,000
Sustaining Argyll and Bute’s future - £1,702,000 to set up a Recovery and Renewal Fund for recovery initiatives and future covid-19 financial pressures, to reduce the council’s carbon emissions and progress the rural growth deal.
Improving opportunities for people and communities - £1,042,000 to boost the mental health and wellbeing of our young people, set up a Tackling Digital Exclusion Top Up Fund, increase welfare support, and encourage shopping local at Christmas.
Supporting Argyll and Bute’s culture - £96,700 to develop Gaelic, culture, heritage and arts as drivers for economic recovery.
Councillor Gary Mulvaney, Policy Lead for Financial Services thanked the public for their contribution to the budget planning process:
“We continue to dedicate the majority of our budget to supporting our young people and caring for our vulnerable residents, through our education services and the Health and Social Care Partnership. We know that this year many families’ budgets are especially stretched so have frozen council tax.
Councils unfortunately though don’t have enough funding to do everything people want us to do so there are always difficult decisions to make. Thank you to everyone who got involved with the budget planning process this year. What you told us helped us reach the right decisions for Argyll and Bute.”
The council tax freeze keeps council tax for a dwelling in Band “D” at £1,367.73
Based on public feedback, the Council rejected savings options totalling £135,000:
R&I 02 – flower bed planting- £30,000
R&I 13 – grass cutting service specification - £100,000
R&I 14 – fuel and utility sales - £5,000
Another savings option had already been withdrawn from consideration following strong public feeling against it: the option of removing pupil support assistants from schools - £209,000
The Council accepted all other policy savings options proposals totalling £557,500, and endorsed the management/operational savings proposals.
Further information on the £6.784m investments in Argyll and Bute’s future
Investing in Argyll and Bute’s Opportunities - £0.830m
Staycation Argyll and Bute - Supporting recovery and renewal by maximising the potential for growth in Argyll and Bute’s camping and campervan staycation market
Additional funds to be spent across 2021/22 and 2022/23 to support the delivery of a range of facilities across Argyll and Bute necessary to support camping and caravan staycations. This will include £500k investment in additional waste disposal facilities to be available prior to the summer of 2021 and other facilities. Additional wardens to be employed over the period April to October 2021 to raise awareness in respect of camping responsibly.
Marketing Argyll and Bute as Scotland’s premier staycation destination – targeted marketing and promotion activity to highlight Argyll and Bute’s opportunities for growth
In addition, £300k investment in marketing Argyll and Bute as Scotland’s premier staycation destination, with funds to be spent across 2021/22 to 2023/24 to support bespoke tourism marketing initiatives in-house or as matched funding with partners.
Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative
£30,000 to Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative for the current year.
Keeping Argyll and Bute Connected - £3.113m
Building on investments made in previous years, an additional £2.613m to drive forward improvements and repairs to Argyll and Bute’s network of roads in rural, remote, island and urban communities, bringing the overall Roads Reconstruction Budget to £10m for 2021/22.
In line with the council’s agreed priorities, invests a further £0.5m in enhancing and improving footpaths and pavements in rural, remote, island and urban communities. This investment complements the current allocation of £400,000 in green transport and travel.
Sustaining Argyll and Bute’s Future - £1.702m
Recovery and Renewal Fund
Provides for future recovery, regeneration and renewal, as well as any future pressures which may arise following the Covid-19 pandemic through a dedicated Recovery and Renewal Fund. Proposals to include options for maximising Argyll and Bute’s potential as a green, connected staycation destination of choice.
Climate Change Measures
Invests a further £600k in energy renewable projects for solar panels and Air Source heating which will reduce costs over a ten-year period and reduce carbon emissions.
With the allocation of £500k last year, this comprises an investment fund of £1.1m in addition to the council’s other funding of Climate Change-related activities.
Rural Growth Deal
Following the signing of the Heads of Terms Agreement for Argyll and Bute’s Rural Growth Deal in February 2021 and, to secure maximum potential from this £70m investment in the region, invests additional funding to drive forward the progression of Argyll and Bute’s Deal.
Improving Opportunities for People and Communities - £1.042m
Investing in the wellbeing of our young people –mental health and wellbeing resources and support for vulnerable children and families
Package of measures to boost the wellbeing and build back the resilience of young people, in particular those most vulnerable, following the Covid-19 pandemic, including counselling and increased provision of childcare for children under three.
Tackling Digital Exclusion Top Up Fund - to support people, businesses and communities to access improved digital connections for social and commercial opportunities
Establishes the Tackling Digital Exclusion Top Up Fund to support communities and in some cases individuals that are missing out on national programmes due to logistics and economies of scale.
Welfare Rights Support
As part of our focus on Improving Opportunities for People and Communities, provide additional resources to proactively support people experiencing poverty and hardship, by investing in two additional Welfare Rights support staff for two years.
Suspend all off-street car parking charges across Argyll and Bute for the two-week period 11th to 24th December 2021 to encourage residents to support local shops in the lead up to Christmas.
Supporting Argyll and Bute’s Culture - £96.7K
Funding for delivery and implementation of the council’s Gaelic Language Plan in recognition of the contribution that Gaelic makes to economic growth and to the tourism sector, and to enable delivery of key activities within the plan which currently receive no revenue funding.
£66,700 to CHArts to ensure that Argyll and Bute’s culture, heritage and arts sector makes a contribution to our overall recovery and renewal.