Council outlines spending priorities

David Parker says stimulating the Borders economy and encouraging sustainable growth is one of the council's key priorities.
David Parker says stimulating the Borders economy and encouraging sustainable growth is one of the council's key priorities.

A BERWICKSHIRE business leader has described as “pitiful” the cash Scottish Borders Council intends to devote to roads maintenance in the coming financial year.

Hans Waltl, chair of the Borders Federation of Small Businesses, was commenting on the allocation of £3.7m, of a total revenue budget of £254m, for ongoing maintenance of the region’s roads, footpaths and bridges.

However, the council has also earmarked borrowings of £69m in its capital programme over the next 10 years for major, but as yet unspecified, infrastructure works on the ailing network.

Details of these and other capital projects will not be revealed in detail until February 5 – a week before the 2015/16 budget goes before councillors for approval.

Mr Waltl, from Gordon, said: “The relatively small amount spent on a vital asset worth £3 billion is pitiful. Unless we can get more folk into the Borders and more goods out, the amount of business we do is limited. No additional wealth creation means the physical and social environment will remain the same.”

Details of the revenue budget which will be approved – along with a freeze on Council Tax – on February 12, were given at a briefing this week when SBC leader David Parker admitted many parts of the region had yet to experience an economic recovery.

“Stimulating the Borders economy and encouraging sustainable growth is one of our key priorities,” he stated.

Revenue spending will increase by £2m in 2014/15 but pressures on social work services and a pay increase for staff means £8m of savings are needed. Higher charges for council services, better use of IT and the shedding of around 55 jobs are planned.

The transfer of home care services to a new arms length company on April 1 will deliver savings of over £400,000, while an extra £200,000 will be saved when cultural services are passed to a trust later in the year.

The Conservative opposition group meets next week to discuss the spending plans. Group leader Michelle Ballantyne said: “When we finally get details about this budget, we will examine them closely to ensure decisions offer value to the people of the Borders.”