Region’s council tax likely to rise by 4%

SBC Headquarters
SBC Headquarters

Council tax in the Borders will rise by 4% if councillors agree to the ruling executive’s recommendations when they meet today, Thursday.

This will net Scottish Borders Council an extra £600,000 a year, which will be used to fund a £2.4m investment over the next four years in the region’s roads and pavement, as well as accelerating the new Hawick High School project.

The council’s executive revealed its draft budget and proposed council tax rise last week ahead of this week’s budget and council tax setting meeting.

Among the areas the executive are looking to invest in are: £16m to provide every 10 to 17 year old in the Borders with an iPad; establishing a second police community action team (£265,000) to tackle anti-social behaviour and drug-related crime in the Borders; an extra £3m on extra care housing in the region in Hawick, Kelso, Eyemouth, and Peebles.

Kerbside collections had been thought to be under threat of moving to every three weeks but the recent review has instead identified savings in working patterns and depot strategies.

Since 2013 the council has made £60m of budget cutbacks, and a further £29.5m of savings will need to be made over the next five years. Council leader Shona Haslam, however is optimistic.

“The council is constructing the foundations of a more efficient council,” said Ms Haslam. “The budget provides funding for major projects that will regenerate our high streets, create new, high quality jobs and increase the number of tourists coming to the Borders as well as attracting people to live and work here.”

Addressing the investment in extra care housing, Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, explained: “The Scottish Borders is facing a demographic challenge where in 20 years half of all households are predicted to be over the age of 65. Services for older people must be ready for that and this administration is prepared to commit funding to that end.”

The council’s SNP and Lib Dem opposition parties revealed their own future spending plans: £34m over 10 years for new or refurbished primary schools; £11.4m in a schools’ digital learning programme; £2.8m capital and £6.4m revenue into early learning and childcare; £58m in flood and coastal protection; £282,000 for community policing team and an initiative to control on-street parking; £2.4m for Reston Station; and £1m devolved for local decisions on road maintenance, traffic management and the environment.