Six school extensions confirmed as Falkirk Council agrees spending plans

Falkirk councillors agreed a capital programme that includes £4.31 million for six school extensions and £3.81 million on roads maintenance.

This year's projects are part of a five-year capital programme that will see investment of more than £300 million over the next five years.

Other projects that got the go-ahead were £1.3 million on a new Falkirk to Denny path; and £800,000 on improving energy efficiency and reducing carbon footprint.

However, councillors heard that a challenging financial situation meant some juggling and some projects being delayed.

Falkirk Council Municipal Buildings

This year's grant from the Scottish Government was at the same level as last year, with no increase for inflation.

That - together with the fact that this year's council tax freeze meant that the option of using part of the increase to borrow against was removed - gave councillors a financial headache.

This means the council is having to look again at at how to fund large rolling programmes including the Grangemouth Flood Defences - which will mostly be funded by the Scottish Government but will need a contribution of £67 million from Falkirk Council.

The council also needs to look again at how it can keep investing in digital technology for schools through its Succeed Today, Excel Tomorrow programme.

This year, councillors were asked to approve borrowing an extra £25 million, which will be added to £63 million that has already been approved.

Councillors heard the money was vital to allow projects that had already started to continue.

The SNP administration's capital programme was backed by the Conservative group, giving them the votes needed for it to pass.

The proposals included measures to tackle climate change and investment in projects that will transform the way the council works, such digital technology to make systems more efficient and cut future costs.

Council leader Cecil Meiklejohn said: "The people of Falkirk deserve to have an ambitious capital programme as that will be what will stimulate our economy and help us come through the pandemic."

Councillors also agreed to fund projects that Mrs Meiklejohn said would prove that they are listening to communities, such as funding for Changing Places toilets over the next two years.

And they approved £3 million for 'community hub' projects that can be put in place quickly when the results of the review of council properties is known and communities have been consulted.

They also agreed to spend £2 million to upgrade sports changing facilities and pavilions across the district in bid to encourage outdoor sports, including football.

The minority administration's budget passed with the support of the Conservative group - but not all councillors were happy with the spending.

The Labour group put forward an alternative budget that included Covid-related work in schools, including toilet upgrades that would improve ventilation.

Director of Children's Services Robert Naylor said there was a rolling programme to replace toilets but they did not have enough cash to do them all at once.

A request from the Community Trust's request to spend £20 million on Grangemouth Sports Complex was also rejected.

Bo'ness councillor Lynn Munro said, however, that she was concerned that there was not enough investment in smaller towns, including Bo'ness, villages and rural communities.

She said: "It's small wonder rural communities feel forgotten, have higher unemployment, fuel poverty and poorer transport services."

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