Conservatives put the record straight
SIR, - We were disappointed, but not surprised, that the Scottish Borders Council’s SNP-led administration chose to reject the Conservative Group’s alternative budget proposals.
Unfortunately, members of the administration either misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented our proposals. So we would like to take this opportunity to clarify our main proposals.
The first point to make is that our proposed budget and that of the administration are very similar, since both documents took as their starting point the recommendations of the council’s chief officers. However, we strongly believe that extra savings can be made in the running of the council’s headquarters to enable higher expenditure at the frontline. This would enable us to: retain and improve the community wardens service; spend an additional £4.8m of roads maintenance over the next five years; avoid increasing the price of primary school meals.
In addition, contrary to what was alleged by members of the administration, we share the ambition to raise planning fees so that the full costs of planning applications are recovered. But, as the Scottish Government does not yet permit us to do this (and it is dependent on developers submitting significant projects in the next four years) we think it would be naïve to count our chickens before they are hatched. That is why these fee increases were not included in our budget proposals.
We also support the administration’s plans to renegotiate present and future employees’ terms and conditions. This is not just sensible but essential, given that staff costs account for the lion’s share of council spending. Where we differ is how to handle the inevitable reorganisation of jobs that will be necessary over the next five years.
The administration wants to continue with its policy of no compulsory redundancies but we see very real problems with this approach – not least the fact that those who volunteer for redundancy or early retirement are too often the very people you might want to retain. With significant reorganisation, it is vital to get the correct balance of skill and experience; therefore restricting that choice will potentially provide poorer services.
This said, having the option of compulsory redundancy does not mean enforced job losses. There are a number of other ways to shrink the wages bill before resorting to that. An open, honest and inclusive culture would help to ensure that the people of the Borders had a council to be proud of and the administration’s leadership might want to consider that.
Hopefully, we have now set the record straight.
COUNCILLORS MICHELLE BALLANTYNE, NATHANIEL BUCKINGHAM, ZANDRA ELLIOT, JIM FULLARTON, JOHN GREENWELL, GAVIN LOGAN, SIMON MOUNTFORD, SANDY SCOTT, GERORGE TURNBULL, TOM WETHERSTON.
Is their enough intrerest in Duns?
SIR, - I have been visiting Duns regularly since the early 1970s and I now live in Duns.
I attended the Berwickshire Forum recently where the community councils represented the population of Berwickshire. There was no representation for the Duns people; the Duns Community Council no longer exists.
I understand that there were too few nominations for prospective councillors at the time of the last Duns Community Council elections to generate a valid council. I have asked the Scottish Borders Council what is required to regenerate the Duns Community Council. The Community Engagement Consultant has advised that initially a petition signed by 20 voters from within the Duns Community Council boundary is required. At that point but not before March 18 2013, the Scottish Borders Council would seek nominations for prospective councillors. Thereafter, the process would progress if Scottish Borders Council received enough nominations for prospective councillors.
Is there enough interest locally to regenerate the Duns Community Council?
Coldstream referendum welcomed
SIR, - I welcome Coldstream Community Council’s initiative to hold a referendum on the proposed changes to Home Park. It is the right decision to allow all the residents of Coldstream to express a view whether ‘for’, ‘against’ or ‘no strong feeling’. Home Park is our park and we should care how it looks and how it is to be used. Furthermore, if we expect our council to represent our community’s views to SBC accurately then I hope we can support them when they canvass our opinions.
Bennecourt Drive ,
SIR, - On behalf of the Eyemouth RNLI lifeboat crew, I would like to thank all those who made the recent ‘Joseph Walker Memorial Trophy’ darts competition such a great success. The event, organised by Irene Aitchison and held in the Tavern Bar, Eyemouth, helped raise £500 for the RNLI. The winner of the competition was Milque Marshall and Karl Jamieson.
Duns First Responders grateful
SIR, - In response to your article ‘Residents say thanks as ploughs help to save lives’ I agree that the council’s snow plough drivers do a sterling job keeping roads open and making routes safer.
On the night that the First Responders attended Longformacus it was a very difficult drive to get there in a 4x4 vehicle but we managed to get through.
The 4x4 ambulance got stuck on the Longformacus road and as the snowploughs efforts were concentrated on keeping more major roads open it was local farmer Andrew Rodger of Stobswood Farm that came to the rescue.
After receiving a phonecall very late that night he came out with his farm snowplough and manged to get the ambulance out and then continued to plough to Longformacus and keep the road open until we got the patient out. If it wasn’t for the community spirit of local people willing to help out in times like these the outcome may have been different.
Duns First Responders are very grateful for his help that particular night.
Party for Peru
SIR, - May I through your columns thank all who helped make the ‘Party for Peru’ such a special event on February 2, when a fantastic night was had by all.
The sum of £1,130 was raised, helping to send students from Berwickshire High School to Peru for three weeks in June 2013 to work with the Vine Trust and help disadvantaged children.
Thanks to Mike and Liz Hardy for hosting the event and to all the local businesses who generously supported it, especially the Co-op and Farne Salmon
Party for Peru was only made possible by the efforts of many people working hard together, thanks to all the teams involved-car parking, washing up, tables and decorations, food preparation, lights and sound, and the bar. A special thanks to Arlene, Marcus and Hot Tin Roof, who all played fabulously on the night.
Thanks from Coldstream Church Guiild
SIR, - On behalf of Coldstream Church Guild I would like to thank everyone who helped in any way by making coffee, clearing up, running the raffle or providing the wonderful array of produce for the cake stall at our coffee morning on Saturday, March 2. We raised the sum of £392 and a huge ‘Thank you’ to everyone who came along and spent so generously.