East Ayrshire Council will have to find £8 million in cuts and savings over the next year – and a new report has revealed that schools, health and social care are set to bear the brunt.

The impact of Covid, skyrocketing energy prices and the overall cost-of-living crisis has heaped pressure on all councils, something that East Ayrshire bosses have regularly acknowledged.

The savings and increases to be presented to a meeting of the authority's cabinet this week represent 4.2 per cent of the council’s overall budget, but they are spread unevenly across services.

The East Ayrshire integration joint board, which oversees the work of the area's health and social care partnership, will see the money it receives from the council reduced by £3.7m. However, the specific impact this would have on health and social care services is not made clear.

Education faces a cut of £1.8m, amounting to 1.5 per cent of its budget. This includes £1.25m directly related to school staffing.

Other services face cuts and savings of between 2.1 per cent and 4.2 per cent. However, these are lower than the cash saving proposed for education, and range from just £39,000 for corporate support to £632,000 for housing and communities.

There is also a proposal to reduce funding to East Ayrshire Leisure Trust by £198,000.

At £2.7m, cuts involving council staff make up the majority of the overall savings. Increasing fees and charges to boost income is second, at £875,000.

If agreed by members of the cabinet at their meeting this Wednesday, January 18, the proposals will go out to public consultation until February 1 - giving the public just two weeks to have their say on the plans.

These include:

- Cuts to core secondary school staffing (£890k) and general staffing allocations (£360k)

- Review of central school support such as outdoor education and staff travel (£100k)

- Cuts to under utilised Early Learning budgets (£77k)

- Finance and ICT redesign (£283k)

- Redesign of winter roads service (£100k) and removal of four management posts at Ayrshire Roads Alliance (£75k)

- Reduction in catering staff based on number of meals (£75k) and greener communities workers (£90k)

As well as proposing cuts to service funding, there are plans to increase charges across a number of services.

This includes increasing charges for special education (£100k), bereavement services (£60k) planning and building warrant fee income (£45k), temporary accommodation rent (£37k) and catering (£65k).

Other proposals include work to increase secondary school meal uptake to increase income (£50k), reduce temporary accommodation spend (£100k), review underutilised council property (£128k), relocate an automated public toilet at Kilmarnock’s Foregate to Cumnock and close the existing toilets at Tanyard (£50k).

In a report to the cabinet, chief financial officer Joe McLachlan states: “It must be stressed that the process of identifying options to close the budget
gap has been a difficult and challenging process for services and budget

“This reflects the significant pressures that already exist within budgets
and the new and additional demands for support that have arisen from Covid-19 and the more recent cost-of-living crisis.

“The [consultation] process will set out the wider financial challenges that were contained in the Medium Term Financial Strategy and the expenditure reduction measures needed to close the 2023/24 budget gap.

“The engagement process will seek the views and comments of our residents
and businesses and will play an important part in informing the Council’s future
decision making.”

The report adds that, while the Scottish Government provided a year-on-year increase of £458m across Scotland’s 32 local authorities, the vast majority of this is ring-fenced against Scottish Government priorities, limiting the flexibility of the council.

This, the council estimates, will give EAC £1.7m in funds not specifically allocated, but these have not been accounted for in drawing up the £8m in savings.