A SOUTH Ayrshire councillor says the authority must be ready to step in to keep vital support services running.

Alec Clark (Independent, Girvan and South Carrick) made the plea during a cabinet discussion on the progress being made by the South Ayrshire Food Network, including the area’s three food pantries in Ayr, Girvan and Maybole.

Cllr Clark told the meeting that council should consider intervention in the Children 1st’s children and families service in Girvan.

At the time of the meeting, that service had been under threat, with South Ayrshire health and social care partnership stating it was under review.

However, it has since been given a one-year extension.

While that service has been saved, Cllr Clark argued that the council should also be prepared to step in with short-term financial support should such issues arise with the food pantries, given the funding from the Scottish Government is only in place until the end of March.

The Girvan and Maybole pantries were given £25,000, with the Ayr service receiving £67,664.

Each pantry is managed by local charitable organisations such as Children 1st, VASA and the Carrick Centre, with a total of more than 1,600 members.

Cllr Clark said that the council should be prepared to take direct action, given the uncertainty around funding.

He said: “I think the problem here is, although it is externally funded by the Scottish Government for a year, we don’t know what the situation is.

“How long it has got to go? The importance to me, and indeed to the communities who who use this service, is the need to find some way of continuing provide this service.

“I think the council, in the short term anyway, should find some way of supporting this if there is a financial cost.

“Perhaps in the long term it is something the budget working group could look at as a funding partner.”

Jamie Tait, SAC's service lead for thriving communities, said the council was ‘committed’ to supporting the three pantries - and had also seen Covid recovery money allocated to a range of other local schemes providing similar support.

He added: “We are committed to support the pantries through an external funding grants officer in order to seek a sustainable model.”