Local Democracy Reporting Service
The ruling Tory/Independent coalition had its budget approved at a meeting of the council last week, when it went head to head against a rival budget set out by the opposition SNP/Lib Dem/Independent coalition.
One point of contention is the council tax. The ruling administration’s budget includes a 4% rise in council tax, while the opposition budget kept the increase to 3%, as previously agreed by the council in December 2018. The administration says it will use the extra council tax to accelerate construction of a new high school in Hawick and provide £2.4m of extra spending for roads and pavements.
Speaking in favour of the opposition’s budget proposals, Mr Bell said: “We strove to focus on the basics for all Borderers, not the little adjustments, the little sweeteners, that might in past times have bought a few extra votes in one community or another.
“We are not funding projects that in our view are not currently strategic priorities. Education is our priority.”
However, the administration’s draft budget was passed by 17 votes to 15.
Afterwards council leader Shona Haslam said: “In the face of reduced funding this council has been able to agree a budget today that will see over £386m invested in capital projects and programmes across the region over the next 10 years, including new schools, extra care housing, new and improved visitor attractions and town centre regeneration.
“I am especially proud of our huge investment in education, to deliver new primary schools in Eyemouth and Earlston and replacement secondary schools in Galashiels and Hawick, and rollout the inspire learning programme to every school, supporting our children and young people and give them the best prospects for their future.”
The administration’s budget includes £265,000 for a second community action police team, £25m for new primary schools at Eyemouth and Earlston, and an extra £3m on extra care housing in Hawick, Kelso, Eyemouth, and Peebles.
The opposition wanted to spend £58m on flood scheme works, provide an extra £3.6m for waste management services, and put £9.2m into early learning and childcare.
The budgets are almost aligned in digital learning, the administration spending £16m over ten years for iPads for pupils, while the opposition proposed a slower roll out costing £11.4m.
Councillor Haslam said: “This administration has, from the outset, been determined that our core frontline services would be protected, that our most vulnerable individuals, families, and communities would be protected, and I’m extremely pleased that we have achieved this in the budget.
“But that’s not enough. We’re ambitious for the future, we want to invest in our communities and our young people. This budget also does that. This budget promises a digital, technological revolution in our schools.
“It brings forward plans to replace four high schools in our region with a sensible, costed solution for how to do that.
“It provides vital services such as bin collections and public toilets and brings forward solutions on how we can ensure that these services are fit for the future.”