NORTH Ayrshire Council have now approved their budget for 2024/25.

Elected members met on Wednesday, February 28, to make the final decision as they looked at various ways to plug a near £16 million funding gap.

After a lengthy meeting and much debate, the final proposals were voted through 21-9.

Ahead of the final call being made, a number of controversial cuts were put to elected members as means of providing a balanced budget.

Amongst the proposals was a review of staffing allocations in both primary and secondary schools which could have resulted in the loss of the full-time equivalent (FTE) of 35 jobs across North Ayrshire's schools.

However, members agreed to remove this option with the savings of £1.3m instead made elsewhere.

Council tax rates were frozen at last year's levels for the upcoming financial year, though funding will be provided by the Scottish Government based on a five per cent increase to plug the gap left by frozen rates - estimated to be around £3.5m.

Another controversial issue was the proposed introduction of a £50 annual fee for the collection of garden waste, which would have generated nearly £590,000 in extra revenue.

Elected members voted against introducing the fee  across North Ayrshire.

It was also proposed that further savings, of around £100,000, could be made by reducing the 'roads revenue budget', used for short-term and reactive repairs to problems such as potholes. 

However, a complete change of direction was decided with it instead being voted through that an additional £750,000 be added to the roads budget.

It was also agreed that council charges and fees will increase by five per cent come April 1.

Further savings are set to be made with an anticipated 79.5FTE posts being removed from within North Ayrshire Council.

The council has a no compulsory redundancies policy so this reduction will be managed through natural turnover, vacancies, redeployment and voluntary early release.

Following the meeting, elected members say the budget has a clear focus on measures to help residents while maintaining frontline services and protecting jobs as much as possible.

Councillor Christina Larsen, cabinet member for finance and procurement, said: “The main challenge facing the council is that the funding we receive is not keeping pace with increasing costs such as wage increases, and the rising costs of energy and materials.

"This is happening at a time when we face a greater demand for our services.

“Being able to maintain all services at current levels gets more difficult every year therefore the focus for all elected members was delivering a budget which supports residents, and also minimises any negative impact on our communities.

“The cost-of-living crisis is still with us, and the council is not immune to its effect, meaning this may well be the most challenging budget in recent years.

“We will continue to work tirelessly as a council to support our residents and deliver the type of services which they need and when they need it.”