Borderers are encouraged to get involved

Public deputations to Scottish Borders Council should be facilitated under a root and branch overhaul of decision-making at Newtown.

That radical suggestion came last week from leader David Parker who believes allowing interest groups to directly address elected members on issues which concern them will encourage Borderers to become more engaged in – and less cynical of – the work of his council.

It was also an acknowledgment of a democratic deficit which he feels has emerged in the two years since his ruling administration abandoned its executive/scrutiny model in favour of more committees and more meetings.

As revealed in these columns last week, there has been widespread disillusionment among elected members who believe the current decision-making regime is no longer fit for purpose and that the committees have been either unwilling or unable to scrutinise themselves.

At last week’s full council meeting, councillors agreed in principle to bring back the scrutiny watchdog and scrap the main departmental committees, vesting their roles within an executive with representatives from all political parties.

The fine detail of the new scheme of administration will be considered at SBC’s December meeting.

Members will then decide if the scrutiny committee should be merged with the petition’s committee – one of the perceived successes of the last two years.

Mr Parker’s preference is for the petition’s committee – bolstered by the responsibility of receiving public deputations – to continue to stand alone, allowing scrutiny to review and, if necessary, call in executive decisions.

A report next month will make recommendations on a proposal to reduce the number of members on the licensing board and civic government licensing committee.