‘AMBITIOUS for the Borders’ is the new Scottish Borders Council administration’s five year programme for the region with the focus very much on money and jobs.
The new administration partnership agreement has now been signed by representatives of the Independent, Scottish National Party and Liberal Democrat councillors who have joined forces to make up the administration following the council elections earlier this month.
Councillor David Parker, Leader of SBC said: “This document will govern some of the work we do over the next five years.
“Not every single priority or policy is in this document, however, these are the key themes that we will be looking at in the early days of the council as we move forward.
“As part of this work one of the key areas that we will be looking at is economic development which needs to be given a stronger focus and should be central to all the work across all departments. This has been recognised in response to economic challenges that we face and is one of the main areas where we will ensure we do everything we can to make the Borders an area that we want to live, work, grow up and invest in.”
Councillor Michael Cook, leader of the Independent members, explained: “What we have is a partnership agreement which sets out how we intend to take business forward over the next five years.
“We have come together to serve the interests of the Borders and we very much we see ourselves as partners working together to deliver the ambitions that are set out in the Partnership Agreement.
“It is true that no matter how ambitious this programme is it can never cover all of our ambitions as a council and there will be much more that we want to achieve over the coming years. We know the challenges are considerable and certainly if you are the man or woman on the street at the present time the things that concern you are money and jobs so those are certainly key priorities set up front in the programme of government and something that lies very much at the heart of our ambition for this administration.”
Councillor Catriona Bhatia, Leader of the Liberal Democrat group said: “We are very pleased that many of our ideas have gone into this agreement, in particular the flagship policy of setting up a business loans fund to help local businesses.”
“It is going to be a challenging five years ahead but we are an ambitious administration and this can certainly be seen by the title of our agreement document. We hope that within the resources that we have we can certainly improve life in the Borders and also the democratic accountability of the council.”
Councillor John Mitchell who leads the SNP group added: “We are delighted to be part of this particular administration where we will have the opportunity to put our perspective on moving forward for the next five years. Democracy should work from the bottom up so we are looking forward to involving local people in this bottom up approach.
“The economy is number one, if we get that right everything else will follow. We are very excited about this agreement and look forward to playing our part in this partnership.”
Responsibility for a number of important council areas has also been agreed; community planning - Councillor Jim Brown; community safety - Councillor Donald Moffat; culture, sport and community learning - Councillor Vicky Davidson; economic development - Councillor Stuart Bell; education - Councillor Sandy Aitchison; environmental services - Councillor David Paterson; HR and corporate improvement - Councillor Michael Cook; planning and environment - Councillor Ron Smith; roads and infrastructure - Councillor Gordon Edgar; social Work - Councillor Frances Renton; Health Service (NHS Borders) – Councillor Catriona Bhatia.
Mid Berwickshire councillor Donald Moffat takes on a newly created role, reponsibility for community safety, which incorporates the council’s involvement in determining the police and fire services’ priorities for the Borders when the current forces and brigades are merged into one Scotland-wide service, plus warden services and services dealing with domestic violence.
The Borders is among the 27 local authority areas testing the Scottish Government’s plans for restructuring the emergency services and Councillor Moffat will chair the new Borders Pathfinder board being set up to shape services in their area.
“I think it’s going to be a challenge to bring it together, but it’s quite an exciting time,” said Councillor Moffat. “I’ll have a better idea of what’s involved once I’ve spoken to Kenny Simpson Lothian & Borders Police community safety officer) to go over the new role from their point of view.
“There’ll be more councillors sitting on the Pathfinder board which will give us more say than we’ve had in the past.
“Community safey and early intervention are two big aspects for us,” added Councillor Moffat. “There’s a whole lot of things that are going to be happening.”
When Kenny McAskill spoke to the Association of Police Superintendents in the Borders last week he said: “The police service of Scotland will strengthen the links with communities by creating local commanders who will work with local authorities and other partners to meet local needs. Police forces are currently working with 27 local authorities on Pathfinder pilots which are trialling new local arrangements for working together to agree and deliver local priorities.
“This will mean more responsibility devolved to officers, and giving significant delegated authority to shape local policing. Your expertise and operational leadership will be central to the success of the new service at a local level.”