Budget cash being put to good use

Falkirk Council has allocated money to various services now the work will begin throughout the area's communities
Falkirk Council has allocated money to various services now the work will begin throughout the area's communities

Falkirk Council’s budget for 2017/18 is now set in stone and the local authority’s workforce can start to put that cash into action.

The budget measures put in place last week will come into force from April 1, but work is already going on throughout the area on vital initiatives, projects and improvements in the community.

Around £87 million will be spent on a variety of upgrades to services and projects over the next three years with the aim of benefitting local communities and an estimated £104 million will go towards improving existing housing stock and providing new build properties.

In 2017/18 alone, £17.15 million will be spent making improvements to around 6000 properties across the Council area, such as £8.7 million for re-roofing and roughcasting, £2.2 million for replacement kitchens and bathrooms and another £2 million for electrical improvement works.

There will also be a £2.2 million allocation for an on-going programme of heating system upgrades, which will improve the energy efficiency of around 750 homes, while a further £1.5 million will be spent on improving local estates.

The local authority is continuing its new council house building programme, with 158 new homes to be built over the next three years in Falkirk, Denny, Hallglen and Grangemouth at an approximate cost of £23.4 million.

A further £6 million has been allocated to help the council buy back former council homes sold under right-to-buy legislation, with around 250 properties expected to be bought over the next three years.

To help fund all this council rents will increase by an average of 3.6 per cent – an average of £2.23 per week – from April 1 for 16,000 tenants. However, around four in ten of all tenants will be spared from any increase due to housing benefit protection.

At last week’s budget meeting Councillor Joan Paterson, standing in for housing convener Gerry Goldie, said: “Councillor Goldie has worked hard to implement many of the improvements being seen in streets all across our district.

“I believe this council’s housing service is a great success story. An independent survey showed 85 per cent of our tenants are satisfied with the overall service provided and around 80 per cent feel their rent is good value for money.

“A total of £165 million has been spent improving and maintaining our existing stock and funding a range of initiatives to deliver new and additional affordable homes in the last five years.

“Our rents are the fifth lowest of all local authority housing in Scotland and more importantly, this income is ploughed back into the stock and allows us to make sure our tenants get the good quality, affordable housing that is everyone’s basic right.

“My only regret is that it is a shame we can’t do more to help the thousands who are still on our waiting list.”

The Integrated Joint Board, a partnership with NHS Forth Valley, will see a budget allocation of £60 million to allow it to deliver adult social care and health services across the area, while Falkirk Community Trust will receive £11 million to provide sport, recreation, arts, heritage and library services.

Council leader Craig Martin said: “Our investment programme ensures that we can bring long term stability to the area and enables us to support our longer term ambitions.

“Long term investment also means the pressure is reduced on our everyday activities in order to maintain and improve services. The investment programme is ambitious and we have focussed on making the biggest impact from very tight resources.

“We’re continuing to prioritise projects such as the TIF scheme that could deliver thousands of jobs locally as well as significant investment in schools, roads and technology.”

Some of the investment plans outlined for 2017/18 include £14.3 million for development services to work on roads and flood prevention, £7 million for children’s services to invest in property extensions and new builds and £5.6 million for the (TIF) Tax Incremental Finance Scheme which includes work on roundabouts.

The new school for children with additional support needs will receive £3.7 million, while £1.7 million will go to the Grangemouth flood prevention project, £1.6 million will go to help make improvements to existing schools, £1 million investment in Falkirk and Denny town centres and £810,000 for the continuation of the Denny Eastern Access Road.

More than £12 million will be invested by Falkirk Council in culture and leisure services over the next year, mainly supporting the activities of Falkirk Community Trust.

The council grant package includes extra money from the local authority to retain the trust’s heritage learning and outdoor activities team.

An enhanced payment of more than £800,000 will support a number of capital projects including replacing seating and theatre lighting at Falkirk Town Hall, improving the fabric of historic Callendar House Museum, improvements to the roof and toilets at Camelon’s Mariner Centre and improving plant and machinery and the sauna at Grangemouth Sports Centre.

The money will also cover investment in sports pavilions, with Westquarter and Stirling Road to be prioritised.

Trust chairman Ian Scott said: “Strong partnership working with the council will allow us to continue to deliver vital community services.”