A THREE per cent rise in council tax bills has been confirmed for North Ayrshire households after the local authority's budget was set for the upcoming financial year.

Councillors met - virtually - yesterday (Wednesday, March 2) to approve the budget with a £410 million capital investment programme agreed for the next decade.

Among North Ayrshire Council's (NAC) priorities are a focus on improving roads, investing in the school estate and fulfilling a commitment to a green and sustainable future by becoming carbon neutral by 2030.

An additional £1 million will be made available over the next 12 months to increase roads expenditure in 2022/23 to £4.8million. Investment will also be made to increase the availability of electric vehicle charging points throughout North Ayrshire, while the B714 road will be upgraded to improve connectivity between the region and Glasgow, the Central Belt and wider motorway network.

Council tax will increase from April 1, meaning a rise in annual payments of between £26 and £52 for those in band A through E properties.

However, thanks to a Scottish Government rebate, NAC say approximately 55,000 households in North Ayrshire will see bills reduce by between £110 and £123 in 2022/23 even with a three per cent increase.

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Council leader, Joe Cullinane, said: “Our residents are at the forefront of our minds when setting the budget, and while no-one wants to see the council tax rise, the impact of not increasing it would have serious financial repercussions in the years ahead, leaving our residents facing the prospect of a 6.75 per cent rise next year and putting jobs and services at risk.”

Council fees and charges have been frozen for the second year in a row, while the council has also pledged to provide vital help to vulnerable residents during the current cost-of-living crisis.

Although the scheme is in the early stages of development, NAC has approved as part of its budget to invest over £1.7 million to work with a specialist partner to help residents access vital grants and receive money-saving energy advice.

It is hoped that this energy-based support scheme will help ease the squeeze on household incomes and will offer residents access to energy-saving measures such as boiler replacement and insulation to reduce bills.

Cllr Cullinane said: “The focus for us when setting this budget is to help our residents. Having supported people through two years of the pandemic, we all now face a serious cost-of-living crisis as energy bills soar.

“In choosing to target our support for families, we have recognised that energy prices, which are rising by an average of 54 per cent, are fuelling the cost-of-living crisis.

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"We believe that targeting the £1.725 million of council funding, which is almost the equivalent of a three per cent council tax increase, to reduce the energy bills of those families most in need provides more short, medium and long-term benefits than freezing the council tax.

“We will accelerate this project at pace to ensure people feel the benefits as soon as possible.

"However, this is not a one-off scheme – we hope that the initiative will help ease financial pressures on our residents for years to come.”

The capital budget also includes a commitment of more than £73 million to support the investment into the £250 million Ayrshire Growth Deal through projects such as the Great Harbour at Irvine, and the development of the International Marine Science and Environment Centre.

Education will continue to play a key role with £70 million pledged for a new Ardrossan Education and Community Campus, £14.1 million for the new build Montgomerie Park Primary School, and £5.8 million remaining investment for the new Moorpark Primary in Kilbirnie.

In addition, more than £6.75 million will be invested in schools’ information and communications technology.

The budget will also support a diverse range of core infrastructure projects such as a £9.8 million investment into street lighting, £4.6 million into cemeteries, £2.84 million for a new Largs promenade seawall, £5.68 million into bridges infrastructure programme, and £5.79 million into cycling, walking and safer routes programme.