Parker defends cash spent on council offices

LOCAL authority leader David Parker this week defended the decision to spend more than £80,000 on improvements to offices at Scottish Borders Council headquarters in Newtown St Boswells, with a possible additional £50,000 to refurbish the main council debating chamber.

The figures were issued in response to a question from the Conservative group leader on the local authority, Councillor Michelle Ballantyne.

Mrs Ballantyne wanted to know which rooms, offices or areas are being refurbished in council headquarters, at what cost and for what reasons. She was informed that SBC carries out routine maintenance and small-scale alterationsto all its buildings to keep them fit for purpose. 

In 2012/13, works include accommodating NHS staff in SBC HQ offices as part of the joint working programme (estimated cost £10,000) and works to relocate environment and infrastructure staff to HQ as part of restructuring (estimated cost £25,000). Works will be needed to move the mail room to the old school building in Newtown St Boswells and demolish the Bristol Building – this will save on running costs at the Bristol Building and enhances staff car park (estimated cost £25,000), The plan to move assessors out of Scott House into main HQ and save on running costs will also need work done, at an estimated cost of £15,000.

Also included is the sum of £9,606 being spent to refurbish and expand Mr Parker’s office accommodation.

The council leader said: “It is also the case that because of my own sight, and the support I receive from my PA, it is necessary to have a member of staff sharing with me when I am not in meetings to allow me to carry out the high volume of administrative work that I have. Our previous room did struggle to cope with the two work stations and we had very cramped meeting accommodation.”

On the issue of refurbishments to the council chamber - which would cost in excess of £50,000 – Mr Parker said this is under consideration, but it was proposed to replace the current tables with new wheeled tables that are easier to manage.

“The current tables are heavy and are not designed to be assembled and re-assembled as frequently as they are being and they have recently been condemned on health and safety grounds,” he said.

“We also intend to re-do the toilets nearest the council chamber as these are in an extremely poor condition.”