Annual council budget survey launched as cross-party group seeks input of Borderers

Annual council budget survey launched as cross-party group seeks input of Borderers

A survey has been launched to help a cross-party group of local councillors draft the next Scottish Borders Council budget, which is due to be set on 29 February 2024.

A new strategic Council Plan, which is interlinked with the budget, will also be agreed at the same meeting and will set out a range of overarching priorities and associated actions. The survey gives local people the chance to feed into both.

The survey can be completed online. The survey will be open until midnight on Wednesday 31 January 2024.

Councillor Mark Rowley, executive member for service delivery and transformation, said: “I am delighted that once again a cross-party group of Councillors is coming together regularly to draft our budget plans, but as ever it is crucial that we get the input of local people into that process.

“Almost 900 people fed into our budget and Council Plan last year, and I’d love to see that increase. Every response is reviewed, and that feedback is something which we consider and discuss as a group as the draft budget is developed.

“The financial challenges we are experiencing, many of which are also being felt in every household, are not going away. Although the inflation rate has reduced, costs are still increasing, in some cases quite significantly. That that puts real pressure on our capital plan in particular, which we use to invest into our properties and infrastructure, such as roads and new facilities.

“We know that Council Tax will be frozen following the First Minister’s recent announcement, but we are still waiting to hear how the Scottish Government will recompense the Council for this and what, if any, flexibility will be provided to councils to spend the funding we receive from the Government. This could be crucial to the final budget and the services and facilities we can continue to maintain.”

There are a wide range of challenges facing the council, as with many other local authorities, which have significant financial impacts, including:

  • Age and condition of the council’s extensive property assets, with annual running costs of £14m, a maintenance backlog estimated at £22m and annual energy costs of £3.4m
  • Condition of infrastructure, including roads and bridges and the funding required to maintain current condition, let alone improve it
  • Increasing demand for services and support due to Cost of Living Crisis
  • Growing pressures around supporting vulnerable young and older people
  • Need to respond to the Climate Emergency and to reduce local inequalities
  • Requirement to continue to deliver significant savings year-on-year whilst minimising the impact on residents and communities and also delivering on nationally set policies.

Councillor Robin Tatler, independent group leader, said: “A £300m-plus revenue budget and a 10-year capital budget of over £400m can do a huge amount of good for the Borders, but unfortunately it doesn’t allow the Council to do everything it used to, or everything that our residents would like. That is why it is so important that we understand your top priorities.”

Councillor Elaine Thornton-Nicol, leader of the SNP group, added: “The opportunity for all the political groups to shape the draft budget plan is welcome, but the only way we can represent all Borderers is by people completing the survey.”

Councillor Euan Robson, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said: “The survey responses are shared with all councillors, not just those on the Budget Working Group, and it genuinely does impact on the final budget and Council Plan. I’d encourage everyone to take this opportunity to have their say.”

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