‘building a successful Borders’ was the aim of Scottish Borders councillors when they were elected into office in 2012.
Now with elections looming in May the council’s administration group Scottish Liberal Democrats, Conservatives and independents) has produced their end of term report, to assess what they have managed to do in the past five years and what still remains to be done.
Given that much of their term of office was during an increasingly difficult financial period the council has still managed to complete 29 of the 41 priorities they set in 2007, are well underway with a further 11, and only one priority - to introduce pilot schemes of using motion detectors and solar power in street lighting - has made little progress.
The ‘Building a successful Borders’ plan was divided into four sections: people; communities; business; delivering for our Borders.
All three main priorities under the ‘people’ section have been completed: investing in school buildings (includes new high schools at Duns, Eyemouth and Earlston); providing £100,000 a year for Borders wide youth projects; and improving support for young carers. Other priorities in this area such as increasing the range of opportunities for young people entering further and higher education and apprentices, increasing participation in sport and improving the provision of children’s play areas still require work.
Within Borders communities, the council give themselves a tick for the three main priorities having been achieved: increasing European funding for Borders projects; improving health and social outcomes in partnership with NHS Borders; and providing more enforceable road safety measures. Four areas either close to completion or well on the way include the implementing the recommendations in the Borders Poverty Strategy, introducing more effective neighbourhood management of environmental services, flood services, and modernising public transport.
Businesses in the region has not had it easy in recent years and the council has tried to help by creating a climate in which they can flourish by making it easier to local businesses to bid for and win council and other public sector contracts, improving information on how businesses can access grant funding, and improve the mobile phones and broadband networks in the Borders. However, there are still a number of outstanding issues that need to be completed: promoting the Borders as a business friendly destination for inward investment; supporting creative industries including digital broadcasting and production companies; and encouraging tourism.
On a Borders-wide level they report: delivering value for money and minimising council tax increases; delivering affordable homes; driving up attainment and achievement in schools; and supporting the development of Abbotsford as a major heritage tourist attraction. Improvement is still needed in encouraging grand funding applications from communities.
SBC’s end of term report states: The administration set out a clear and comprehensive policy programme to help create and build a successful Scottish Borders for our people, our communities and our business.
“The four years of this administration has been characterised by success, delivery, achievement and the implementation of our ambitious programme. All against the backdrop of a global recession, increasing demand for services, a considerable real reduction in available resources and some of the severest winter conditions experienced in Scotland.
“At the same time we have maintained an appropriate level of reserves consistent with our financial strategy. We have also delivered over £16 million of cash efficiencies as part of a far reaching and comprehensive business transformation programme and this has enabled us to maintain and invest in front line services in the current challenging financial climate.
“SBC is well on the way to becoming a modern, responsive and customer focused organisation delivering the excellent public services that our communities need. We have made significant progress which demonstrates the strength and effectiveness of this administration and the commitment we have to listening and delivering for local people and to building a successful Borders that our communities deserve.”