Fife Council has set its budget for the year ahead, with a pledge that "fixing Fife is the priority" for spending.
Following the council's recently agreed approach to recovery and reform, today's budget (11 March) has allocated investment to the three priority areas of supporting local economic recovery, tackling poverty and addressing climate change.
The council will also invest in young people and schools, recognising in particular the need to ensure that as many young people as possible have access to remote technology to help their learning.
And a massive £9.9 million funding has been announced to repair and improve the Kingdom's roads over the next two years, with nearly £1m extra into managing the local environment.
Overall proposals amount to a significant investment in services, facilities and support for Fife's communities and businesses, including:
- £9.9m into roads over the next 2 years;
- £5.4 to mitigate the impact of flooding;
- £7.5m into tourism and community facilities;
- almost £1m into local environmental management;
- £2.9m into supporting the local economy;
- £0.5m into tackling poverty in addition to the £31m we already spend on hardship payments, rebates and prevention measures, and further specific funding from Government; and
- a further £1m for devices to support remote learning for our young people on top of Government funding for this purpose and the mainstream resources we commit every year to education.
Council Co-Leader David Alexander commented: "This year the council comes to set its budget under extraordinary circumstances. The Covid pandemic has completely changed the way we have worked over the past year, the priorities we've had to pursue, and the support people have needed.
"We already agreed a council tax freeze to give hard pressed residents a break, and we’ll be paying the new living wage from April.
“It’s still difficult to predict the additional costs of Covid that the council will have to meet over the next two years, such as cleaning and safety measures or the continuing loss of income. But fixing Fife is our priority and we’ve coordinated our revenue and capital budgets to focus squarely on the recovery and reform agenda.
“This is a positive budget. We’ll use our substantial resources to tackle the infrastructure problems we know exist, and to support communities in a variety of ways so that we can build back better, together.
"We have a key role in supporting Fife’s recovery from the pandemic. We’ve already set out our approach through the Policy & Coordination Committee - supporting the recovery of the local economy, tackling poverty that has grown during the pandemic, and continuing to address the challenge of climate change. Now we’re putting our resources behind this.
“We know we’ll need to invest in crisis support to help people through tough times to come – and to tackle the infrastructure problems that we know have got worse in the past year. But our eyes are on the future and we’ll also be investing in projects and initiatives to create more jobs in Fife wherever we can.
“This is an opportunity to make a real difference to Fife and we intend to deliver.”
Council Co-Leader David Ross added: "After years of having to make cutbacks and savings, we have the opportunity this year to make some significant reinvestments in our services.
“Covid restrictions and redeploying staff to support individuals and communities during the pandemic, coupled with recent severe weather, have had an impact on our roads and on our local environment. So we’re putting more investment into these areas – recognising that there will be pressure on our budget in future years - but we believe it’s right to spend now, to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and help Fife’s recovery.
“We’re putting money into things that matter to our communities, from recurring funding for our autism strategy to extra upfront investment in flooding mitigation.
“Local places and facilities have become a real focus for people during the pandemic, strengthening the sense of community we have in Fife. Recognising that, we’ve earmarked investment in some specific local projects, like upgrading the Beacon Leisure Centre and the community wing at Inverkeithing High School to support all the groups that use it.
“On top of this we’re adding £75,000 capital for each of the next 2 years, to each of our seven area budgets to allow local investment in infrastructure and facilities. Area committees will work with communities to decide how this is spent. It could be used to fund smaller council projects or allocated to community organisations as match funding to help them access other funding sources for larger projects.
“While this community focus will help stimulate local economies, our budget will also support industrial commercial developments, enterprise hubs and town centres as well as tourism and community facilities across Fife.”