Scottish Borders Council unveils £294m capital investment plan in draft budget

Council leader Shona Haslam

More than £294 million is proposed to be spent on infrastructure throughout the Borders over the next ten years as part of a draft financial plan from the local authority.

Scottish Borders Council’s budget plans, to be considered at a meeting of the council on  February 20, include a three year investment plan of £22m to be spent on the area’s roads and bridges and a ten year school estate improvement plan of £89m.

The Administration’s budget includes:

  • £2.1m over three years for new and improved outdoor community spaces
  • £4.8m for a specialist dementia residential facility
  • Over £22m investment in roads and bridges over three years, with £79m planned investment over the next 10 years
  • £89m to improve the school estate over 10 years
  • £8.3m contribution to the £41m Hawick Flood Protection Scheme
  • £2m towards the re-opening of Reston Station
  • £0.799m to support the regeneration of Eyemouth
  • £1m to assist in delivering town centre regeneration
  • £2m for road safety works at the A72 Dirtpot Corner in 2018/19

Council leader Shona Haslam said: “We have developed a budget which builds on opportunities and improves the lives of Borderers, whatever their age. It focuses on delivering quality services, opportunities for all in a thriving economy, empowering communities and enabling people to live independently and achieve their goals.

“We are committed to investing in services to help the most vulnerable in society, both young and old, deliver improvements to our roads, build new schools and support businesses by stimulating the local economy and improving our town centres.

“This budget also protects teacher numbers and frontline council services, whilst also recognising that we must modernise service delivery and make efficiencies.

“We are proposing a three per cent increase in Council Tax, which will generate around £1.6m for next year’s budget. Council Tax makes up less than a quarter of all the funding we receive, and this increase is only the second in 10 years, during which time the funds we receive from other sources has reduced and demand for services has increased.”

A range of savings proposals are also included in the budget plans, ranging from reducing energy usage and staff travel to changes to working practices. The current proposals identify that 35 full-time equivalent posts may be removed during the next year as a result of structural changes and more efficient service provision.

The council said it has been preparing for potential staff reductions by holding 65 vacancies and this, alongside a natural staff turnover level of 10%, will all contribute to a managed reduction of the workforce without impacting on existing staff wherever possible.

Councillor George Turnbull, executive member for finance, said: “We continue to be faced with circumstances out with our control, including financial and demographic, which put pressure on the council’s budget, and we take our responsibility to carefully manage our funds extremely seriously.

“We recognise that there are some key priorities for local people and that is why we are proposing significant investment in delivering specialist care and support services and new extra care housing to enable people to live independently for longer, new and improved schools to give our young people the best start in life and also better roads to connect all our communities.

“Giving local communities a say in how money is spent is important, and that is why we asked for the public’s views in the run up to preparing the draft financial plans, and why we will continue with the Localities Bid Fund and develop ways to get communities more actively involved in decisions about the spending of public money and promote easier access to community funding.”