Falkirk Council: £4.5m 'bonus' to keep providing iPads for pupils

An unexpected £4.5 million of capital funding will be invested in Falkirk Council’s digital learning programme for schools.
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Members of Falkirk Council agreed today (Wednesday) that it would continue to fund its Connected Falkirk programme, which means all children from P6 to S6 are given their own iPad for educational use, while younger children have devices to share.

Members heard that the project has won praise in recent HMIE inspections and is proving vital to make sure that all children are well prepared for their lives after school.

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The extra £4.5 million became available after the Scottish Government announced it would not clawback an overpayment made towards Grangemouth Flood Protection Scheme.

All pupils from P6 to S6 will continue to have heir own iPad for educational use. Pic: ContributedAll pupils from P6 to S6 will continue to have heir own iPad for educational use. Pic: Contributed
All pupils from P6 to S6 will continue to have heir own iPad for educational use. Pic: Contributed

However, as the decision was confirmed just hours before Falkirk Council met to approve its budget in February, members agreed to delay any decision on its capital budget in order to get more information.

Today’s meeting heard confirmation that there were no conditions attached to the spending and members agreed with officers’ suggestion that the Connected Falkirk project was a good way to use the extra cash.

Overall, however, members heard that this year’s capital grant from Scottish Government saw a reduction by around £820,000, at a time when inflation continues to be high.

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The meeting also confirmed that an extra £1.77 million in revenue from the Scottish Government will be received by the council as a result of money it received in the UK’s spring budget.

During the budget meeting, the council had expected this funding would be received but could not be sure until the UK Government’s budget was announced.

Members agreed that the extra cash will be used to borrow for capital spending.

They also agreed that £600,000 will be used to borrow £7.5 million that will be added to £3 million that has already been agreed to improve leisure facilities in schools and make them more accessible to the public.

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This will be used to improve facilities in Bo’ness, the Braes and Denny.

The remainder of the £1.17 million will target various capital projects, which will include an extra £4 million for roads improvements and £2 million for flood maintenance prevention and gully renewal.

A further £1 million will be used to fund an overspend in the work being done to extend Maddiston Primary School.

The SNP administration also accepted an addendum that was put forward by Independent councillor Laura Murtagh.

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She said she was concerned that the focus on the Grangemouth Flood Protection appeared to have “drawn focus and potential resource away from development of wider flooding projects in recent years”.

Councillor Murtagh noted that the risk of flooding that does not fall under the Grangemouth scheme’s remit was causing increasing concern to many communities living alongside local watercourses.

Councillors agreed that officers should bring a report in 2024/25 on general flooding matters, which should consider the design of an overarching project that would allow for the development of other schemes.

After the meeting Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, leader of Falkirk Council said: "This capital investment plan represents our commitment to enhancing services and infrastructure for the long-term benefit of our local communities.

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“There continues to be a clear need to deliver large scale projects that are an investment in our area’s communities as well as ensuring we can continue to provide priority services.

“However, big gaps remain in funding for essential projects such as backlog maintenance requirements across various areas of the Council’s operations.

“We acknowledge these challenges ahead but will continue to remain optimistic about securing the necessary funding to address these needs.”