THE new leader of North Ayrshire Council says she is “laser focussed” on her top three priorities at the end of her first few weeks in office.

Irvine East councillor Marie Burns was speaking after the final council and committee meetings before the summer recess began.

Cllr Burns was elected as the leader of the authority’s SNP minority administration on May 18 – and has been reflecting on a busy spell since then as well as looking ahead to what lies in store over the next five years.

“A lot has to be done,” she said.

“At the discussion we had with voters we committed to three main priorities, first poverty and cost of living, the others were climate change and local democracy.

“At the first cabinet meeting I was delighted we were able to set up a child poverty board. We want decision makers for this and it will set out the work we want to do.

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“It’s easy to talk about plans and priorities, but we want to get things done and be careful about the way we do it. I want the board to be action-centred.

“Some of our meetings will be workshops where we will bring people who have expertise in certain areas and we can come together with solutions and results.

“I’m really pleased we were able to do that.

Irvine Times: The North Ayrshire Council HQThe North Ayrshire Council HQ

“There are a lot of initiatives with the child poverty action board. I want the board to get a report on what we do on financial conclusions, and we must look to see what we are doing to help families and what works best.

“The poverty rate is 27 per cent in North Ayrshire – two per cent above the national average.

“We must look to get out of poverty, and one of the ways to do that is to get people into work. We will look at employability and getting people into work.

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“One of  the problems with the attainment gap is young people living in poverty having real issues that affect their ability to do well in school.”

On climate change, Cllr Burns said: “We want to look at the council’s own carbon footprint and electric vehicles all the way to solar fields we have been developing, and we want to see that finalised.

“We also want to look at community energy generating. Some people think we should use Ukraine as an excuse to go back to fossil fuels, but that’s absolutely not the right thing to do.”

Extending local democracy is another key aim.

She said: “We are good at doing consultations and giving groups grants.

“We gave the locality partnerships a budget for community investment and we want to get people involved in what their place around them looks like and having a direct say on how it looks.

“They want to know what is happening in their area and have an interest in their environment.

“We were elected just over a month ago and we have done well in terms of how we want to approach things. We just have to do them.”