Cross-party financial plan agreed by Scottish Borders Council

Cross-party financial plan agreed by Scottish Borders Council

Scottish Borders Council has agreed a cross-party budget proposal which commits to the delivery of planned projects and largely protects frontline services, despite continued rising costs.

As part of the 2024/25 budget there will be:

  • A freeze on Council Tax
  • £121.6 million invested in major capital projects, including new schools and care facilities, as part of a 10-year capital plan worth over £450m
  • Extra funding allocated to local sport and leisure trusts, to the public transport network and to support young people with additional care needs
  • Funding to retain one police Community Action Team
  • Additional funding to manage increasing demand within social care
  • Significant investment into roads and transport infrastructure

Over the next 12 months, the council will be engaging with residents to identify service changes which will deliver permanent cost reductions and help to address the ongoing financial challenges posed by huge inflationary impacts and static government funding.

Councillor Mark Rowley, executive member for Service Delivery and Transformation, said: “Although we’ve been faced with some tough choices about what we prioritise, we are being ambitious and remain committed to some significant projects.

“With hugely increased construction costs it would have been quite easy this year to revisit our capital project plans, but we’ve not done that. We’ve also taken on board the feedback from over 2,000 people and protected or provided additional funds in key priority areas, such as local services, public transport, roads, the local economy and community safety.

“On top of the £84m savings already made over the past 10 years we do need to make further transformational changes which reduce our costs though. Whilst inflation is slowing, costs and demands are still increasing, and are on top of significantly higher increases over a sustained period of time, so the pressure on our funds is unrelenting.”

The 2024/25 financial plan was developed by a cross-party Budget Working Group, which is now focusing its attention on options for future service change to ensure financial sustainability going forward and how to engage with communities around those prior to the 2025/26 budget being set next February.

Indicative potential increases in Council Tax have been included as part of budget forecasts for 2025/26 to 2028/29, but are subject to change. Final decisions on Council Tax rates will be made each year and will be directly impacted by future government funding for the council and what permanent service delivery changes and associated savings can be made. The Council currently has one of the lowest Council Tax rates in mainland Scotland.

Councillor Elaine Thornton-Nicol, leader of the SNP and Green group, added: “The council is here to deliver services for all Borderers, from the day they are born to the day they depart us. With continued financial pressures it is now about how we do that with less money, but still do it well and ensure that people are safe and supported.

“This budget gives us some headspace to consider potential changes and the time to go out to communities and be open and transparent about the costs of our services, including those we have to provide legally, and the options we have to deliver things differently.”

Councillor Euan Robson, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, commented: “This budget allows us a year to engage with communities to consider decisions, some of which may be very difficult, but which will assist in securing the financial sustainability of the council in future years.

“The cross-party consensus arrived at around this budget is positive and will hopefully continue, and be replicated at individual ward level, as new service delivery plans are developed for 2025/26 and beyond.”

Almost £10m one-off funding from council reserves is being used to support the 2024/25 budget. More than £4m of savings are also included in the financial plan, along with increases to fees and charges which will generate additional income.

Councillor Robin Tatler, leader of the Independent group, said: “It is a hard, hard journey we are going on, but it is the only way we can continue to deliver the services we have to and those which are priorities for our communities.

“One example of what we need to consider is the council’s large property estate. Anything we can do to reduce that brings in funds from the sale of property and also reduces the ongoing costs.”

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