SOUTH Ayrshire Council bowed down to public pressure by removing some of its most controversial budget proposals.

The planned cuts to public toilets, school crossing patrollers, Prestwick swimming pool and Maybole recycling centre were removed ahead of last Thursday’s budget meeting. 

The council administration said the budget would help create a ‘strong, sustainable South Ayrshire.’ councillors also agreed to a council tax increase three per cent, which will see Band D properties rise by £35.66 – 69p per week – to £1224.23.

The added income will go towards “funding and protecting” council services over the next year.

A number of budget proposals were withdrawn from consideration ahead of meeting as a direct result of the consultation responses. All public toilets and Maybole Recycling Centre were just a few of the “much-needed” resources that were removed.

The proposal to close Prestwick swimming pool had been one of the “most controversial” included in the council’s ‘Balancing the Budget 2018/20’ consultation and this was taken “off the table” due to the amount of criticism it received, including three petitions that contained more than 9,000 signatures.

Another controversial proposal that was withdrawn was the removal school crossing patrols from all 48 locations across the county, with leader of the Conservatives, Cllr Martin Downey calling for the persons responsible for this proposal to be “utterly ashamed of themselves”.

He said: “There’s one thing that really annoyed me when I saw the consultation – it was the school crossing patrollers. They are the people that are out there in all weather – weather like its been in the last few days – keeping our children safe, allowing them to cross the road.

"Whoever allowed this consultation to go ahead with the threat to the school crossing patrollers so be utterly ashamed of themselves.”

Cllr Peter Henderson, added: “The proposal to remove school crossing patrollers was one of the most talked about during our ‘Balancing the Budget’ consultation, no matter where we were or who we were speaking to.

“And while there is no legal duty or requirement on the council to provide this service, it’s clear that our patrollers play and important role in the community and are highly-valued by our people, so we will be retaining the current level of patrols.

“I know this will be a relief to the public as well as our School Crossing Patrollers and we thank everyone for making their views known.”

Other proposals dropped from consideration included, the closure of Maybole golf course and the closure of Maybole and Prestwick customer service centres.

Speaking at the full South Ayrshire Council meeting on Thursday, March 1, Council Leader Douglas Campbell, said: “Before you today (Thursday, March 1) there is an unprecedented budget – a budget that has been shaped by our people, for our people.

“The budget is the outcome of true consultation and engagement with thousands of people across South Ayrshire – that balances the services that we have. I want to thank everyone that took their time to have their say during our balancing budget consultation.

“From the outset last year, we have been clear as an administration about what matters to us and that is our people and our places. They sit at the heart of everything we do and the ambitions we have not just for the Council, but for the whole South Ayrshire area.

“As our announcements about the savings confirmed we have listened and we have responded to the thousands of people who stood up and made their voices heard. In setting this budget, our focus has been on our people and our places.”

The budget also includes additional investment in key areas that support the vision for “Our People, Our Place” and these are - £65,000 to support the schools at the heart of the community project and to provide additional holiday activities for schools in the most socially-disadvantaged areas, £20,000 to reinstate a fund to support community galas, £17,000 to cover the letting costs for breakfast clubs in our schools and £100,000 for improved signage and community engagement.

A new eight-year capital investment programme of just under £237 million until 2025/26 was also agreed at the meeting last week, which will include, £855,000 to improve public toilet provision, £750,000 to support the implementation of 20 mile per hour speed limits in towns and villages, an extra £3 million in 2018/19 for road reconstruction and improvement and £1 million to support Maybole town centre regeneration.

Independent Cllrs, Alec Clark and Brian Connolly, added: “Through this budget, we’re delivering investment that will make a significant difference for communities right across South Ayrshire, including those in our rural areas, and that is great to see.

"That’s particularly clear in our capital programme which will have a positive impact, in one way or another, on every single person in South Ayrshire. We have worked tirelessly to get to this place and we have listened to what people want.

"That’s not something that has ever happened in such a meaningful way before and well and truly confirms this budget as one for our people and our places.”