Although an unreserved public apology was not forthcoming, a mood of contrition was palpable last week when SBC finally decided that kerbside garden waste collections should not be reinstated.
There was, however, unanimous cross-party support for a conciliatory motion by leader David Parker.
While reaffirming the decision in December last year and highlighting the “financial implications of reintroducing a service at this time”, it offered an olive branch to the 8,000 Borderers who signed a petition demanding reinstatement of green bin uplifts for 38,000 urban households.
It stated: “This council recognises that consultation with the Borders public on the withdrawal of the green waste service could have been more carefully and effectively implemented.
“We regret any inconvenience and disturbance this may have caused.”
The motion also addressed the charge by principal petitioner Andrew Farquhar that, apart from a lack of consultation, the council, in withdrawing the service, had taken no account of the social, economic and environmental consequences.
“This council acknowledges that further improvements can be made and asks the chief executive [Tracey Logan] to prepare a report...” continued the motion.
Ms Logan will thus have to identify “specific support to meet the recycling needs of smaller communities” and “explore opportunities to support and assist the elderly and vulnerable to access community recycling centres”.
Her report will look a further ways to facilitate the work of private waste contractors and outline actions to improve home composting.
Finally and significantly, Ms Logan must “develop a communication plan to ensure our proposed actions are clearly communicated to the Borders public”.
For the SNP, group leader Councillor Stuart Bell welcomed these measures, adding: “We don’t always get it right and perhaps we didn’t do our best on this one.
“However, the hard fact is it would now be too expensive at £1.5m to run a green waste collection, which, for equality reasons, would have to include smaller communities previously excluded.
“Although I regret how we got here...the reality is that the council cannot now afford to re-introduce this non-statutory service.”
Conservative opposition group leader Councillor Michelle Ballantyne said public disquiet at the apparent lack of transparency could have been avoided if councillors on the ruling administration had not rejected her party’s call in February to retain the collections pending an independent review. “There is now not a lot we can do but apologise and try to mitigate the impact,” she stated.
Independent councillor Stuart Marshall said: “The withdrawal of this service has been rightly viewed as a public relations disaster...I only hope a valuable lesson has been learned.”
After the meeting, Mr Farquhar told the Berwickshire News: At least something has been achieve and clearly lessons have been learned. It’s now time to move on.”