Better broadband a priority for council

editorial image

A transformation of Scottish Borders Council services has yielded £26.7m in savings since 2013, along with modernisation and improvements.

The second annual report on the council’s corporate transformation programme sets out the achievements of the past two years and the challenges ahead.

Key highlights from the past 12 months include introducing a modern human resources, payroll, finance and procurement system; delivery of superfast broadband, including community solutions; a tourism business development programme providing direct assistance to 48 local businesses and supporting three events and five collaboration projects; and a street light energy efficiency programme to reduce energy and carbon costs.

Among the main activities for the year ahead will be the advancement of the digital transformation project, a core element of the wider programme which will include delivery of an online customer portal, work to raise the levels of digital skills, both within the council and across the community, and continued lobbying to ensure digital connectivity is the best it can be in the Borders.

East Berwickshire councillor Michael Cook, the authority’s executive member for HR and corporate improvement, said: “The corporate transformation programme has been a success to date and continues to drive forward changes within the organisation, improvements in our services and reductions in our costs.

“We face some significant challenges as a result of reduced public funding and increased demand for our services.

“These pressures can be even more difficult to resolve given the rural nature of our region, which requires us to provide dispersed services across a large area, with an ageing population.

“We are targeting £25.9m of savings over the next five years, and we need to continue to become a leaner and more flexible organisation and always be looking to improve and innovate to provide better, more efficient services.

“Technology is playing a vital role in enabling this and provides the council with opportunities to rethink and redesign its business processes and make services available on an anytime-anywhere basis.

“This has mutual benefits for both the council and our customers, but we are very aware that we must ensure that they are comfortable taking advantage of digital solutions and that we have the connectivity to make the most of the technology.

“The latter is something we have less direct influence on, but we will continue to push the UK Government, Scottish Government, network operators and other agencies to seek the best solutions for the Scottish Borders.”

Councillors will discuss the report when they meet today.