In September, we launched our AMBITION enterprise and employment programme to support businesses, jobs, social enterprises and our local economy in a lasting way, changing lives and helping secure a great future for South Ayrshire.
More recently, the Scottish Government acquired Prestwick Airport, securing jobs and keeping the gateway to Ayrshire and Scotland well and truly open. I appreciate the hard work by our employees in the lead-up to this milestone, and we’ll continue to be involved as things move forward.
We’ve been making good progress on a number of fronts in 2013 - regenerating Ayr’s Lochside with a £9 million project; completing the Sailwest Project in Girvan; commissioning a new golf clubhouse at Belleisle; opening our Customer Service Centre in Ayr; completing the modernisation of Forehill and Braehead primaries; starting work on a new Kirkmichael Primary; consulting on a new Ayr Academy; planning major changes to Marr College; and our school pupils achieving outstanding exam results once again.
We also hit two big milestones – the planning process for our new leisure facility in Girvan is now underway, working to make our vision a reality. Along with East Ayrshire Council, we established the Ayrshire Roads Alliance, which will be responsible for our roads service from April. This means a financial saving year-on-year while maintaining service levels and sharing best practice – a truly innovative approach for local government.
The way all organisations will deliver services is changing. We’ve played our part this year to shape older people’s services of the future, working with a range of organisations to deliver more support to older people where they need it − in their homes, helping them to remain independent longer.
With the Glasgow Commonwealth Games next year, interest in sport has never been higher and we’ve been promoting and supporting inclusive sports activities for all. We hope the Games will leave a lasting legacy with more people participating in, and supporting sports at all levels, leading to better physical and mental health.
Our commitment to arts and culture within our schools and communities has stayed strong and we’ve been working closely with South Ayrshire Arts Partnership to ensure we deliver a vibrant arts and culture programme for residents and visitors alike.
Welfare reform has been a big news story this year and it’s a major challenge for Councils. We’re doing all we can to provide co-ordinated and comprehensive support where it’s needed most, and we’ll continue this in 2014.
I’ve spent time recently visiting businesses across South Ayrshire and am encouraged at the success stories and upbeat attitudes despite the difficult economic climate. Breathing new life into our towns is important and we’re making significant headway with the appointment of new town centre officers and a huge amount of positive partnership working.
A priority at the moment is our budget – we estimate we will need to save £22 million over the next three years, while maintaining the services our communities need. This is no mean feat, but our record of sound financial management stands us in good stead as we move forward.
However, for now, let’s concentrate on the festive season − a time for celebration, spending time with family, friends and neighbours. Although for many, it’s business as usual. So, please spare a thought for everyone who will be working to deliver vital services while most of us are taking time off and relaxing.
Please also remember the vulnerable, frail or elderly in our communities who may need a bit more support at this time of year. Think about how you can help and make a real difference to them.
Most of all, have a peaceful Christmas and a healthy and contented New Year.