A council tax freeze has been proposed this year with elected members set to meet next week to agree the budget to build back from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has had a significant financial effect on people, businesses and organisations across the country and Councils have not been immune to that.

Nevertheless, although the financial fallout from COVID-19 is expected to continue in the year ahead, Councillors will consider a budget which NAC says aims to protect services and help support residents through the ongoing challenges.

Although the new Council Tax rate is to be agreed by elected members, it is currently recommended that Council Tax should be frozen for the year ahead.

In addition, to recognise the financial pressures facing residents and businesses, it is proposed that any fees and charges will also be kept at 2020/21 levels.

The proposed £365.3million Budget to be considered by elected members will seek to protect jobs and the proposals, if approved, will see the creation of approximately 16 new posts in early learning and childcare.

The Budget reports also proposes:

· Support to vulnerable families of £500,000 on a recurring basis to help address the cost of the school day, including investment in digital, food and clothing support

· A £2m investment to develop further renewable energy opportunities to reduce our carbon footprint and secure a return on investment. The investment will also be used to focus on further Community Wealth Building opportunities across the Council’s land and property assets to support economic recovery and renewal; and

· A recurring investment of £589,000 to help finance up to £7m additional capital investment to support core infrastructure such as roads, active travel routes, property adaptations including energy efficiency improvements and to invest in the Council’s replacement vehicle fleet to help transition to low carbon, electric / hybrid alternatives.

North Ayrshire Council Leader Joe Cullinane said: “The Council has been working to deliver a budget that protects jobs and invests in our priorities during these challenging times.

“We placed reducing the Cost of the School Day at the heart of our latest Child Poverty Action Plan and Councillors will have the opportunity next week to provide investment to do that.

“Given the challenges being faced by families as a result of the pandemic, it will be recommended that we freeze Council Tax.”

As part of the Budget preparations, council officers consulted with communities online and virtually, the results of these sessions have helped inform the Budget process.

In addition to setting the Revenue Budget, Elected Members will also consider the Capital Budget which supports investment in buildings, infrastructure and regeneration projects.

The Capital Budget - which will deliver a total programme worth £373m over the next decade - will play a key role in North Ayrshire’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

Some of the largest projects to be included in the capital plan over the next 10 years include:

· £69m for the proposed Ardrossan Community Campus

· £38m for Flood Protection Schemes at Millport and the Garnock Valley

· £38m for roads investment

· £14m for the new Montgomerie Park Primary School and early years

· £10m for the new Moorpark Primary School

· £7m for a Solar PV farm at the former Nethermains landfill site

The Capital Budget also includes over £68m commitment to support the investment into the £250m Ayrshire Growth Deal through projects such as the Great Harbour at Irvine, marine tourism, and the development of the International Marine Science and Environment Centre.