Opposition councillors have criticised the lack of direct community involvement in South Ayrshire Council’s £1m per ward project fund.

The Conservative administration made the programme one of its key manifesto pledges ahead of last year’s local elections.

However, residents who wanted to bring forward new ideas to the table using the  Participatory Budgeting (PB) model were disappointed.

Instead the projects will  be selected from existing ‘placemaking’ plans for each community, with little further input from residents other than ideas passed onto local members.

Having been agreed as part of the budget setting in March, the council aims to get approval for projects next month ahead of the summer recess.

Both SNP and Labour members have questioned why there has not been greater input from the public, given the emphasis on promoting Participatory Budgeting, where local groups put forward ideas and communities vote for those they want to see funded.

South Ayrshire Council pointed out that the consultation with communities for the placemaking plan had been extensive.

Ayr North SNP councillor Mark Dixon said that the list of projects available for funding was limited by the fact that they have to be ‘one off’ payments.

And he added that constituents had come forward with ideas that were not found in the lists created by officers using existing feedback for the placemaking programme.

He said he understood the rationale behind using existing placemaking information.

But he added: “I have seen no evidence here of PB, even though some items on the list come from the Place planning exercise. The SNP group are still waiting on clarification from the administration about this.”

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Councillor Philip Saxton, chair of the Service and Partnerships Panel, separately raised the issue during a report on participatory budgeting last week.

He asked officers whether the fund, which sets aside £1m for each ward for community projects, involved the same engagement with locals as the participatory budgeting process.

He was told that the council was using existing placemaking results to identify projects. and were following best practice guidelines.

There was no indication of any PB style voting becoming part of the programme.

After the meeting Cllr Saxton said: “I think that this administration forgets they are representing the people.

“No disrespect to them, but my view is that if you have a capital spend of £1million for six wards at £250k per year over four years, then the public should have a say.”

The Conservative group had pledged to allocate the money for ward specific community projects during the local election campaign in May 2022.

Last month, the Cabinet agreed that officers would draw up a list of projects based on existing ‘placemaking’ consultation results.

Projects can only be one off purchases or schemes that do not require annual recurring funding , such as ‘multi-use games areas (MUGA), outdoor seating and road resurfacing’.

The projects are being discussed with councillors, who are able to raise ‘any other local aspirations for capital investment improvements’.

A council spokesperson said: “The funding will be used to transform communities and a number of projects have already been identified as part of a place planning exercise.

“The place plans were developed with extensive community engagement, with communities expressing the need for action.

“Further community engagement is likely as we expand the number of place plans. Local Councillors will continue to play a crucial role when it comes to identifying which projects to take forward.”

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