Groups seeking support from East Ayrshire Council will have to rein in their expectations amid the cost of living crisis, according to its top financial official.

The council's cabinet was discussing the progress being made with the council’s community wealth building commitments, where it takes a proactive approach to improving the economy of local communities.

SNP Councillor Elaine Cowan had asked that the council work more transparently and ensure groups seeking support know exactly what is available.

Chief Finance Officer Joe McLachlan told cabinet that, traditionally, the support available included both the initial support for a project followed by recurring grant funding.

He explained that the financial constraints facing the council meant that this approach had to change, with emphasis now on the initial support and ensuring that both those receiving support and the council know their own ‘obligations’.

Mr McLachlan said: “That sharing of obligations is on what is expected of the group and what the council can and cannot provide.

“We know through some of most recent projects that we have an additional piece of work to ensure that there is due diligence, in terms of expectations on the council and also the confidence that, once a project has moved through to the operational stage, it does have the legs to go forwards.

“They are still supported, but it is a different type of support. The ability to provide recurrent funding year in year out has become ever more challenging
against [the economic] backdrop we are facing and the decisions you have to make going forward.

“We are bolstering that initial part while having honest and open conversations with projects about expectations and obligations.”

Labour group leader Councillor Maureen McKay asked for community wealth building to be embedded in all council decisions in the same way as equality and finance assessments.

She said: “I am questioning if it would be appropriate for us to ask the questions, ‘how does this contribute to community wealth building?’ and ‘what are the opportunities here?’

It was agreed that future reports brought to councillors would include an assessment implications on community wealth building as standard.

Councilor Mackay had also suggested that more could be done on community wealth building, such as adding clauses to local grants requiring use of local services.

However, Councillor Iain Linton, chair of the grants committee, pointed out that there were issues with this approach.

He said: “It cuts both ways unfortunately. If we tie the grant applicants into sourcing locally, that sometimes means they don’t get the best quotes.

“We have a duty to see that public money is spent as wisely as possible.

“If this became normal practice throughout Scotland, it would disbar East Ayrshire companies competing for grant funded work outwith the local authority.

“In principle it is a good idea. But drawing down into the technicalities and you see that it is not just as straightforward as it may appear. ”