The threat of the closure of the Knoll Community Hospital in Duns continues to be a major concern for many of my constituents.
I have been contacted by a number of patients, residents and staff expressing disbelief that vital and busy local facility might be closed down, especially at a time when Borders General Hospital is struggling. The community hospital in Duns means that patients in Berwickshire do not have to travel an extra 25 miles to BGH, which can be a struggle particularly for elderly patients and those without a car.
Rest assured that I will continue to argue for the retention of this and other important community local services and will also push for NHS Borders to rule out closures. I am also urging senior managers involved in this review to hold public meetings once the proposals are finalised. I understand that these details are due to be revealed very soon. It is important that NHS Borders hear directly from concerned residents, patients and staff so that they truly understand the opposition to this move.
When I raised this in the Scottish Parliament last week, I was disappointed that the Minister for Health and Sport, Jamie Hepburn refused to rule out closures. The Scottish Government has the power to intervene to save NHS services, it has done so in the past and if it comes to it, they must do this again to protect the Borders.
Recently it was revealed that Scottish Borders Council was owed over £31m in unpaid council tax. Councils across Scotland need to get better at enforcing council tax charges. It is grossly unfair on those of us who play by the rules and pay our taxes every year that millions of pounds remain unpaid.
If you put aside this year’s debts, around £12m is still owed. If collected, as it should be, that money could be put to good use protecting frontline public services. Given that Scottish Borders Council is facing financial pressure at the moment, I would have thought officials would be doing all they can to collect as much council tax as they can.
This isn’t about forcing those on low incomes to go into debt. There are council tax exemptions for those who really cannot afford to pay and payment schemes for those who get into difficulty. This is about those who repeatedly refuse to contribute their fair share and it is those people which the council should be focusing their efforts on.
I was very pleased to hear Eyemouth born Gary Anderson had won the PDC World Darts Championships in London earlier in the month. Winning this championships is a fantastic achievement, made all the more impressive by the fact that Gary beat 16 times world champion Phil Taylor. I’m sure that this victory is just the first of many more world titles for Gary.
I’m sure that all the residents of Eyemouth will are very proud of his fantastic achievement and would be thrilled if Gary ever decides to return to Eyemouth to show off his trophy.