Borderers are happy people

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LIFE is good in the Borders - over 90 per cent of people surveyed said so - which is possibly why 80 per cent of the population has lived here for over ten years.

A survey of 6000 residents took place in July last year and the findings have just been published, revealing some interesting differences in priorities for people in different part of the region.

Here in Berwickshire, when the 514 people surveyed were asked to put 18 neighbourhood issues in order of priority the number one spot went to making the Borders a safer place to live, work and visit (14%).

Freezing council tax came in at number two (12%), followed by: supporting local businesses and improving public transport (8%); protecting the environment and more affordable housing (6%); encouraging people to visit the region, protecting rural schools and providing activities for young people (5%); tackling poverty and inequality, improving high quality broadband; revitalising and strengthening community life, and raising educational achievement (4%); making the council more accessible, providing facilities for older people and encouraging use of energy from renewable sources (3%); providing heritage and arts activities and sports facilities (2%).

A similar survey has also been done at national level with people being asked about: household composition; housing; neighbourhoods and communities; economic activity; finance and childcare; education; transport; internet and broadband; health and caring; local services; volunteering; culture and sport, providing up to date information on the composition and views of Scottish households. Here in the Borders the focus was on: life in the Borders, customer contact with SBC; community safety; internet access, shopping habits and local decision making.

All the information gathered from both the national and Borders wide surveys, is intended to help both the Scottish Government, local authorities and NHS trusts focus on the areas of life that are important to residents.

Among the 76 questions asked in the Borders household survey, 23 were about council services, others asked for views on housing, health, childcare, dog fouling, internet access and policing and community safety.

While 97 per cent of the respondents across the region felt safe in their own home, when asked for suggestions on what would make them feel safer in their communities the overwhelming answer (64 per cent) was more police on the streets, patrolling on foot and greater visibility. This was followed by removing groups of youths hanging around/drinking/ underage drinking; antisocial behaviour (8%) and better lighting.

Berwickshire respondents were more inclined than those from other areas to say that the police in their area were doing a good job; the top neighbourhood issues being dangerous driving or speeding (46%); parking problems (36%); rubbish lying around (30%); people being drunk or rowdy in public places (22%); people using or dealing drugs (22%).

Council services also came under the spotlight and most people were satisfied with the roads, bus services and winter service, although snow clearing on the region’s footpaths was less impressive as far as respondents were concerned.

Internet access continues to increase, rising to 72 per cent from 67 per cent in 2009, and in Berwickshire the rate was 75%, well above the national average of 68%. However, the majority of people with broadband (64%) rated it as either average, poor or very poor

“In order to make full use of the household survey it is imperative that Scottish Borders Council uses the results to consider how services might be improved or developed to respond to the views of the Border public,” said Clare Malster, SBC’s business consultant, in a report that goes before councillors today, Thursday.