North Ayrshire Council will meet on Wednesday, March 1, to set its budget for 2023/24 with the aim of helping support communities through the current cost of living crisis.

Rising inflation and energy bills – coming so quickly after the Covid-19 pandemic – has affected people, businesses and organisations across the country and Councils are not immune to the financial fallout.

That means the 2023/24 Budget – worth approximately £406 million – will be one of the most challenging faced in recent times as the Council seeks to fill a budget gap of more than £10 million.

Despite the financial landscape, elected members will on Wednesday consider a budget which aims to continue to help support residents through the ongoing challenges as well as protecting jobs and services.

Two of the key priorities when setting the Budget will be supporting communities and helping to tackle child poverty and the Cost-of-Living Crisis.

Following feedback it is proposed to set aside a £1.4million fund to support the important work of the Council’s Child Poverty and Cost-of-Living Board.

The proposed development of a community transport pilot within North Ayrshire, and building on previous spending, look to secure further investment to support our communities in areas of financial inclusion, including debt advice, as well as additional funding in critical areas of food support, clothing and digital inclusion.

Another key priority for the Council is addressing climate change. The capital Budget includes significant investment in a range of sustainability projects with the completion of the Millport Flood Protection Scheme.

Although it is currently recommended that Council Tax should rise by five per cent from April 1, this will be a matter for elected members to decide on Wednesday. A five per cent increase would sit well below the current inflation rate of more than 10 per cent and significant efforts have been made to keep any increase as low as possible.

The money generated from this will help address the Budget gap of over £10m and help protect those services vital to our communities.

Due to the scale of the financial challenge, it is proposed to use Council reserves. Although this is not a long-term solution, it will help protect residents from greater financial impact during this period of significantly increased costs.

It is also proposed that Council fees and charges should rise by five per cent following a two-year price freeze during the pandemic. Recognising the importance of a nutritional meal to our young people, the council is proposing that there will be no increase to the price of a school meal.

In addition to the Council’s Revenue Budget, elected members will also consider the capital budget which supports investment in our schools, infrastructure and regeneration projects.