Old guard make way for younger guns as Borders council cuts staff

Scottish Borders Council's headquarters in Newtown.
Scottish Borders Council's headquarters in Newtown.

The average age of Scottish Borders Council’s staff has fallen from 52 to 47 over the past seven years as its workforce has been cut from 5,566 in 2009 to 4,141 last year.

That changing age profile is revealed in a response to a freedom-of-information request showing a decline of 35% in the number of employees aged 40 or over at the authority.

More than 1,600 staff aged 40-plus left the council between 2009 and 2016.

Over the same period, there was a 33% hike in staff aged under 40 and a near 300% increase, from 121 to 344, in workers under the age of 30.

In 2016, 3,078 employees, three-quarters of its workforce, were over 40, down from 4,770 in 2009, 85.7% of the total headcount at its Newtown headquarters and elsewhere.

A further 603 staff aged over 65 were also on the payroll in 2009, but that was down to just 69 last year.

Over that time, the number of staff under 40 rose from 796 to 1,062, up from 14.3% to 25.7% of the total.

The trend towards a smaller, younger workforce began in earnest in 2010 as the council, in a bid to transform services to cut budgets, unveiled a programme of early retirement and voluntary severance.

Since then, the council has spent more than £12m on 481 such packages at an average cost per departing employee of £25,300.

When that cull began, Scotland’s spending watchdog Audit Scotland warned: “A decrease in the workforce may result in service disruption and deterioration in quality of service.”

In its response, the council claimed: “All retirements and redundancies are planned and managed to ensure knowledge is transferred and potential disruption is minimised.